Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
There will be a direct route from the southwest portion of the city of Washington to Highway 1 in the near future.
Plans for an extension of West Buchanan Street from Elm Grove Cemetery to Highway 1 are finalized and awaiting action by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
“Right now, it’s in the Iowa DOT’s hands, because this is a federal aid route project,” Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said. “The primary financing for this project is $1.8 million in surface transportation block grant funds.”
Hinson explained that the money goes through the Iowa DOT.
“They have to let the project,” he said. “We have submitted everything to the DOT, and we’re awaiting their guidance as far as the letting. We’re thinking that could be in June, but it could come in May.”
The idea for a connection to Highway 1 goes back to the 1930s.
“It’s something the community has identified as a need going back as far as the 1930s,” Hinson said. “There was a 1930s-era comprehensive plan that identified a need for a route from the southwest side of town out to Highway 1.”
The idea had been kicked around for years, including an idea for extending Van Buren Street to Highway 1.
In 2009, the city purchased land for a new wastewater plant and plans began in earnest on the West Buchanan extension.
“When that purchase was made, this general idea was cemented as the idea for getting a route from Highway 1 to the southwest side of town,” Hinson said. “We furthered that in 2011-12 with our comprehensive plan update, which is a communitywide process.”
Around the same time, the new high school was built, and that project included “a tremendous amount of paving around the high school,” according to Hinson.
“At that time, Sitler Drive was an 18-foot-wide concrete street,” he said. “We have widened that out and made it into much more of a standard collector route.”
In 2016, Phase 1 of the project was done with the addition of turning lanes off Highway 1 into the new business park, with paving up to the entrance of the wastewater plant.
“Last year, we did South Avenue E, which was a rudimentary country road that we turned into a nice paved route,” Hinson said. “This is the last piece in a decadelong strategic initiative. We think this will make a tremendous difference for the town.”
The current business park has a 31-foot-wide curb-and-gutter concrete street. That will be extended east from the wastewater plant road.
“We are curving the road,” Hinson said. “That will allow us to have industrial lots on the south side of the roadway. Another reason we put the curve in was that it would not be a straight shot that would be a speed problem.”
Hinson said that part of the vision of the overall project is a nine-acre expansion of Elm Grove Cemetery.
“At the point from where it hits that expansion of Elm Grove, it will go from being a 31-foot-wide curb-and-gutter street to a 38-foot-wide boulevard with a median strip to Avenue E,” he said. “It will be an aesthetic enhancement for Elm Grove.
“With this project, we know we’re making a new front door to Elm Grove. We want to make that beautiful and respectful.”
Speed control is also a consideration, Hinson added.
“We’re coming into a residential neighborhood as we get further east,” he said. “It’s going to look great; it’s going to function great; and it’s going to slow traffic down.”
He said the connection will serve people in the southwest part of the city who are traveling to Hy-Vee, Brighton, Fairfield or other parts west.
It will create better access to the high school.
"We think it’ll cut down on speeding and traffic in town, and create and reinforce better traffic patterns around the high school,” Hinson said.
Looking to the future, there still is the possibility for plans to extend Van Buren Street to Highway 1, as well as a north-south boulevard along the west side of Elm Grove Cemetery.
“This isn’t the last word on development in the southwest district,” Hinson said.