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Construction to start on Hwy. 1/Main Street signalization project

SOLON– Within a month, the intersection of Highway 1 and Main Street will likely be fully signalized.
According to City Engineer Dave Schechinger, construction of the traffic signals was expected to begin after Beef Days and be completed some time in August.
Schechinger reported on the status of the project at a July 6 meeting of the Solon City Council, noting a pre-construction meeting had been held with contractor Advanced Electric Service.
Advanced submitted the lowest of six bids for the project– $98,430– and was awarded the project at a March 2 meeting.
The cost was previously projected to be as much as $238,590, but Schechinger said the estimate had been based on a similar intersection bid out several months before.
“That project cost was significantly higher than the bids we received for the Solon installation,” he said in an email. He hypothesized the lower cost was attributable to a combination of a downward swing in project pricing and favorable bidding by contractors.
Over half the costs ($58,430) will be paid for through an Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) Traffic Safety Improvement Program grant to cover materials for the project. The city will be responsible for the cost of installation and must operate the signal for a minimum of 10 years as a requirement of the grant.
The city’s portion, $40,000, will be paid with Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds, according to City Administrator Cami Rasmussen.
The project includes the installation of traffic signals with video detection and LED signal heads at the intersection of Highway 1 and Main Street. Also included will be pedestrian countdown signal heads, push buttons and signage, with some added construction for conduit and pole installation. The street lights will extend from the new poles out over traffic.
Initially, there was discussion about closing Highway 1 for a period of time to allow for the installation of the poles, but at the July 6 meeting Schechinger said contractors felt the mounting of poles could be done with only Main Street shut off from traffic, similar to what’s done for Beef Days.
Work will begin with the installation of conduit and wiring and the pouring of the pole’s footings. The bases will need to cure for about a week before the poles are erected, Schechinger said.
A control cabinet will be added near the permeable paved area of the City Park parking lot, he said.
Schechinger added the DOT might introduce the traffic lights with a period of orientation, using flashing yellow lights for Highway 1 traffic and flashing red lights for Main Street traffic.
The possible signalization of the busy highway has been a topic on council agendas for decades, but it was only relatively recently that traffic counts met federal guidelines used to determine signal placement.
In late 2013, a transportation study by the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County (MPOJC) reported both the Main Street and 5th Street crossings of Highway 1 qualified under federal guidelines for signalization. MPOJC recommended the Main Street intersection be given priority.
2014 traffic counts collected by the DOT showed an average of 8,500 vehicles per day (vpd) on Highway 1 just south of Solon. Immediately north of Solon, the traffic count drops to 5,400 vpd.
Main Street and its Highway 382 extension carried an average of 3,960 vehicles each day, while 5th Street/Mehaffey Bridge Road saw 2,740 motorists. For 5th Street, that’s an increase of 70 percent over 16 years. The others increased by roughly 30 percent from 1998 to 2014.
While Highway 1 and Main Street will be the first fully signalized intersection for the city, it’s not the first traffic light on Highway 1.
In early 2008, the city was awarded a $44,554 Safe Routes to School grant for a pedestrian crossing light, replacing a temporary school stop sign. The crossing, placed mid-block to avoid its use by crossing vehicle traffic, allows a pedestrian to press a button to turn an overhead light to red for Highway 1 traffic. At all other times, the light remains green.