Uncontrollable intersections were still a topic of contention amongst the Muscatine County Supervisors at the meeting Monday, May 8.
Before discussion began chairman Scott Sauer read a statement he prepared on the topic.
“At a previous board meeting, County Engineer Bryan Horesowsky gave the board his professional opinion from the research he had done in regard to the rural uncontrollable intersections,” Sauer read. “Bryan felt the intersections should stay as they currently are.”
In 2005, an Iowa State University study showed there is no statistical difference in the safety performance of ultra low volume stop controlled and uncontrolled intersections, he added.
“In non-engineering terms that means the study found installing stop signs on lesser traveled roads did not improve safety,” Sauer added. “Over regulating traffic can result in drivers ignoring critical signs where it is essential leading the possibility of more crashes.”
Installing more of the less essential signs would give drivers a false sense of security, which could lead to more drivers not stopping at an intersection, he added.
“With this information and professional opinion, I am in favor of leaving the rural uncontrollable intersections as they currently are so long as the current right-of-way rule stays in place,” Sauer said. “That’s my position.”
Supervisor Jeff Sorensen said he agreed with Sauer’s professional opinion. He also said he liked there was a process in place and would like to follow the process in the place. If there is an issue with how the process currently is, then they should contact the Iowa Department of Transportation about that process.
“I don't want to micro-manage the engineer,” Sorensen said. “I don’t want to micro manage our county attorney (or) sheriff. That’s not what I do but I want to make sure we have a process in place that manages these items.”
He doesn't want to unilaterally change things, he added.
“My biggest concern are the 14 four-way intersections,” Supervisor Danny Chick said.
There currently isn’t a policy about treating those the same and all the other four-way intersections in the county have stop signs, he added. Adding stop signs to the 14 four way intersections would cost an estimated $10,000.
“I would like to see the four ways protected and get to that point is what I would like to see,” Chick said.
Supervisor Kirk Kirchner disagreed with Chick. He said if the county doesn’t do them all then what would happen if an intersection that doesn’t have signage has an accident? It would make the county liable.
Kirchner proposed the county put signs up at all of the uncontrollable intersections in Muscatine County, whether it’s stop signs or yield signs.
“In 2015, 52 of the 88 people killed at intersections in Iowa were killed at rural intersections,” Kirchner said. “That kind of stuck with me. Bothered me a little bit and that’s the state of Iowa.”
This equals less than one death per the 99 counties in Iowa but Kirchner said if you can save a life – why not?
Supervisor Nathan Mather said to him this argument was made emotionally. His heart goes out to the families who have had loved ones affected in car accidents at uncontrollable intersections.
“I don’t like using emotion as a basis for making policy,” Mather said. “I think it results in bad policy.”
After reviewing the information given to them, adding signage at the uncontrollable intersections in the county is unlikely to save a life in the next 20 years, he added.
Mather thought Kirchner’s argument of looking at the risk versus the cost of adding signage to the most dangerous intersections is valid. However, a clear policy needed to be defined by the county. Before he would vote on anything he would need to see a clear comprehensive policy.
Sorensen agreed with Mather. He also said he would like to see a clear policy. He also said uncontrollable intersections were all over the place and didn’t think there were that many.
Chick acknowledged what Sorensen said but the dangers of uncontrollable intersections were a lot different compared to the ones in the city.
Sauer asked Muscatine County Attorney about nothing being in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s manual addressing uncontrollable intersections.
“The manual gives you directives on what you should consider I think,” Barry replied.
If you have an intersection with multiple accidents at it, that’s going to be a trigger with what the manual says as far as taking a look at it, he added. Sight distance issues are also something to be considered.
“I think the policy is there,” Barry said. “The question is do we just deviate from the policy as cited for this reason. I mean that is really what we’re asking ourselves. Again, that’s your decision as to whether or not we do it.”
He is interested in having things consistent, he added. If the supervisors choose to do one uncontrollable intersection over another to add signage to the county could be liable if a serious accident takes place.
Chick said he has taken everyone’s position into consideration and made a motion to have all the intersections in the county controlled.
Mather asked Chick to specify the time regarding the motion he made.
Chick said he would like to see the four way uncontrollable intersections addressed in the next year. He offered to work on having the timeline incorporated into the language of the motion for next week’s meeting.
Kirchner agreed with Mather about the timeline. He wanted to have Horesowsky tell them what a reasonable amount of time would be to get this done.
Sorensen argued a defined policy was still needed for this issue so it is consistent and strong for the county.
Chick said he would write up the motion including what Mather and Sorensen asked for it to include and would present it at the meeting next week.