County reviews Knoxville traffic study

Knoxville Rotary Club members T. Waldmann-Williams, John Mertz and Tyler Christian. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

The results of the Department of Transportation study are in to determine a multi-modal corridor between Knoxville and Pella.

Marion County Engineer Tyler Christian said the study included information about regional commuters as well as local commuters. The focus was on the feasibility of an Interstate 80 connection to Highways 5, 92 and 14 to accommodate current and future travel needs. The goal is to support the economic health of the area, as well as growth.

The study determined that 78 percent of local travelers between Knoxville and Pella use T-15, versus 10 percent who use Highway 92 to T-17. Once each traveler gets across Lake Red Rock, the distribution is even between T-15 and Idaho Drive. Regional traffic varied, as 60 percent used 92 to T-17 and 17 percent went through Knoxville.

Christian says all of the information was used to start designing concepts for future projects. This process was guided by asking all stakeholders and include consideration for traffic patterns, traffic, environmental concerns, alignment with design criteria, as well as consideration for construction and right of way costs. Directing traffic to Knoxville is too costly.

The best route discovered to improve traffic is the southern route – an extension of Bell Avenue in Knoxville, headed east crossing Attica Road, then connecting to Godfrey Lane. This should draw 40 percent of traffic away from Highway 92.

Crashes would likely increase, simply due to more road miles. But overall, their frequency should go down.

Less truck traffic coming through Knoxville would mean faster and more efficient travel to 25 percent of Knoxville residential areas. The new route would tie in to a lot of major north-south corridors and collect traffic.

“It gives us direction as far as future projects,” Christian said. The study included looks at Pella’s Elevator Road, but the changes in traffic would not be worth the investment. The best option to improve traffic between Marion County’s two largest cities would be the east-west option.

Included in the County’s five-year plan is the T-15 bridge at Flagler. Other projects for which the County may seek safety funds include improvements to G-46 and T-17.

Current traffic between Knoxville and Pella every day is 5,500 cars. By 2044, that number is projected to increase to 7,600. Given the number of years engineering designs and materials are viable, consideration and planning should be focused on that increased number.

Pella’s Interstate 80 corridor study is in the same place as this traffic study. Funding for it is now political, as there is a competing study to directly connect Highway 63 to Interstate 80 in Mahaska County.

All of this is subject to change.