The Long-Term Look At Highway 30 Expansion In Benton County

By Chris Earl, KCRG-TV9

NEWHALL, Iowa — The Youngville Café is protected by progress, even as U.S. Highway 30 may be bustling with cars and trucks.

“We had reservations for 32 (customers) for Tuesday and 50 last Tuesday!” exclaimed Joyce Wheeler, 83, who helps out at the historic restaurant at the corner of Highway 30 and U.S. Highway 218.

The café, built in the same year Wheeler was born, survived the expansion of Highway 30 from two lanes to four. Yet, as part of expanding Highway 30 in the fourteen miles west of the Youngville Café, the room could get a little bit tighter. An exit is planned to replace the intersection.

Even this plan is a bit tricky.

“We’ve got two things that kind of limit us (for an exit) out at (Highway) 218”, said DOT Transportation Planner Cathy Cutler. “One is the historic Youngville Café, which is a protected resource and in the opposite quadrant is a pioneer cemetery. Neither of those properties we can touch or put inside a ramp of any kind.”

Highway 30 has a two-lane stretch that runs for 25 miles from just east of Toledo to the Highway 218 intersection. The $13 million proposal looks to expand Highway 30 from two lanes to four over the easternmost 14 mile stretch, from the Tama-Benton County line to Highway 218.

This would include two exits, one at 30 and Highway 21 and the Highway 218 exit.

One proposal that may be in favor for the 30-218 intersection would be loop exits in the northwest and southeast quadrants. An access road would run behind the Youngville Café instead of the current drive toward the front.

Wheeler said she doesn’t want the exit but understands more traffic could come through.

“The engineer told me, when they started the plan, that they’ll get some of the truck traffic off (Interstate) 80 down here,” said Wheeler.

That traffic differential between Interstate 80 and Highway 30 is palpable. A search of DOT daily traffic surveys for 2009 shows on Highway 30, about 3,500 vehicles cross at Highway 21 each day. At Highways 30 & 218, the study reveals about 5,700 cars and trucks traveling on 30.

A comparable 2010 study of Interstate 80 in Iowa County, directly south of Benton County, shows about 29,000 vehicles each day.

Cutler said the new roadway would run south of the current Highway 30 for the eastbound lanes. Along this proposed 14-mile stretch, a total of three houses are currently in the way of the highway plans.

“The house and most of the buildings would be gone,” said Scott Thompson, whose family farm sits right in the path of the planned expansion. “It changes how we do everything around here.”

Thompson said, until the time frame is put into place, it does affect whether to initiate home improvements on a property that will just get torn down years from now.

As for that timetable, Cutler said the funding for the intersections is in place but, at this time, not for the grading and paving for the new roads. About 2019 or 2020 could be the time for the final project’s completion, said Cutler.

The DOT will finalize the five-year program for the state’s roads on June 10 with plans for public input sessions and meetings in Benton County on the expansion of Highway 30 for this fall.

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