Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Washington eyes stoplight for busy intersection
WASHINGTON — City council members weighed their options for traffic control measures at Highway 92 and South 12th Avenue Tuesday night. The intersection is widely used by trucks and commuters into Washington from the north, and was the site of around 20 crashes between 2013 and 2023, according to a Department of Transportation map.
Council members selected a consultant’s option to install stoplights and widen the corners on both sides of 12th Avenue, a move that would allow westbound trucks to turn right without hitting the curb and allow right-turning cars on 12th Avenue to circumvent those waiting to turn left onto Highway 92.
The lights would add a stopping point for traffic along Highway 92 (East Washington Street,) a state road on which the Iowa Department of Transportation does not allow stop signs, according to city staff. Officials said they hoped the lights and wider turning points would solve traffic problems at the intersection.
"I do think that is a contested area, and I think it would aid the safety,“ Mayor Pro Tem Millie Youngquist said.
The plan does not establish a dedicated southbound left turn lane. Consultant Leland Belding said doing so would require more right of way than the city had to work with.
“There’s enough room that if people sneak through to make a right, this will widen it,” Consultant Leland Belding told council members. “But if a semi is parked there making a left turn, then there’s not enough room to sneak people through.”
Space limitations effectively shut down a potential roundabout as well, which Belding’s model showed cutting out parking at UP Home and potentially running through another building in the area.
The stoplights could potentially facilitate a 3-lane road for the area — with a lane on either side and a dedicated central turning lane — something City Administrator Deanna McCusker said the DOT was in favor of, but would not require.
Council Member Elaine Moore said she preferred a 3-lane option.
“It’s obviously something that is being seen by the DOT as a safety precaution, knowing that all of the towns around us have gone to three lanes through their towns,” she said, citing Highway 34 (Burlington Avenue) in Fairfield and some parts of Mt. Pleasant.
All together, the road widening, stoplight installation, and limited utility relocations is expected to run the city around $316,800, slightly more than a nearly $270,000 alternative that widened the corners by less.
The council voted unanimously to send the plans to the Iowa Department of Transportation for approval, but not necessarily to green-light the project itself until later. Council Member Bethany Glinsmann said she was unwilling to take further steps without consulting constituents.
“The feedback I’ve heard is very mixed as far as leaving it as-is versus making something,” she said. “This is a pretty major change for our town … I agree it’s a pain, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s clear there’s public support for this, at least from what I have heard.”
Immediate public reactions to the proposal mostly favored change, based on comments from community social media pages.
“(A) stop light is cheap compared to car wrecks and injuries,” said Washington area resident Jeff Ingwersen. “A timed light at that busy intersection will allow a smooth flow of cars and (give) people from 12th avenue or Washington street equal access to move.”
Michael Sypherd, a school bus and truck driver who lives in Washington County, said he would prefer a roundabout, but was in favor of any changes at the location.
“Something needs done there, regardless” he said. “If you’re trying to get off of 12th Avenue with a truck, it’s dang near impossible. Especially if you’ve got a loaded truck, you can’t get off of that street without messing up the whole traffic flow because you only move so fast when you’ve got a loaded semi.”
Not everyone agrees, however. Washington resident Cindy Guy said he was skeptical of new stoplights.
“Despite the traffic at that corner, a light will only slow traffic both ways,” he said. “The main highway will have the (right of way) the majority of the time, with traffic sitting on 12th waiting for a light, instead of merging when traffic allows. It will be annoying for those sitting on 12th and for those traveling on the highway.”