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Front Street, Mehaffey Bridge roadwork underway

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader

JOHNSON COUNTY– Mehaffey Bridge Road is getting a facelift, and road officials want the public to be prepared.
North Liberty and Johnson County staff members and project engineers hosted an open house at South Slope in North Liberty on Tuesday, May 13, to answer questions about the upcoming roadwork.
The project is a joint endeavor between the City of North Liberty and Johnson County, with the $2.3 million cost shared between the two. North Liberty’s obligation is just over $1 million, and will cover widening and resurfacing the road from Penn Street to the city limits, and adding a turn lane into the Cedar Springs development. The county will take over from there, making a wider road with paved shoulders, and using a cold-in-place recycling process to give the road a new surface that will stretch to Sugar Bottom Road. Johnson County will spend $1.3 million for its portion of the upgrade.
Johnson County Secondary Roads Assistant County Engineer Ed Bartels said drivers need to plan extra travel time, even though the road will never be completely closed to through-traffic throughout the construction.
“Initially they will be working mostly in the ditches, and eventually people will see flaggers and occasionally pilot cars, and that takes a little longer,” said Bartels. “We encourage people to put extra time in their day to make sure they get where they’re going.”
The road project should be completed sometime in September, Bartels said.
Another major project that will impact traffic until late fall is the reconstruction of Mehaffey Bridge, which spans the Iowa River near the Coralville Reservoir.
“This was a real bad winter,” said Bartels, “but we are still hoping for a November completion. The contractor worked diligently all winter to get stuff done. We have pictures of them working down below with ice basically falling on them. They worked under amazingly bad conditions. I’m pretty proud of them.”
According to documents provided by the county, “engineers have planned to keep at least one lane of the bridge and road open to vehicle traffic throughout construction using flaggers, pilot cars and/or traffic lights for traffic control. However, full closures of the bridge may be necessary during certain operations for safety reasons.”
In addition, contractor Iowa Bridge and Culvert has the option to do spot closures of the bridge for 20 minutes or less at a time. Closures of the bridge, if needed, will be announced in advance through the department’s Twitter feed, on the county’s website and on changeable message signs along the road.
When the bridge project enters stage four sometime this summer, the bridge will be reduced to one lane, signalized at each end.
The open house was well-attended, with residents who live along the road asking questions about practical logistics like getting their mail and accessing their driveways. Bartels said for the most part, the road project won’t affect individual properties greatly.
“We had all our engineers and staff available to answer questions as people came in,” said Bartels. “Everybody had a chance to look at the maps and took the opportunity to read the handouts we had sitting around. I think that answered a lot of questions. I think generally everybody is really happy.”
In 2016, a separated pedestrian and bicycle trail will be constructed along the road corridor that will connect North Liberty’s existing trail to Mehaffey Bridge, the boat ramp and Sugar Bottom Campground entrance, partially funded with about $1 million of federal grant dollars.
To get the latest information on the progress of the road projects, sign up for e-mail alerts on the county’s Secondary Roads page at www.johnson-county.com, follow on Twitter @JCSecondaryRoad or call the project hotline at 319-688-8145.