Switching lanes

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Northbound traffic merges into the left lane on U.S. Highway 71 in north Spencer. Traffic is being shifted to the recently completed southbound lanes so surveying and construction on the northbound lanes can begin. (Photo by Gabe Licht)

As the construction focus on U.S. Highway 71 shifts, traffic has also shifted from the northbound lanes to the southbound lanes. The transition was completed Tuesday.

Tony Babcock, a resident construction engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, said the project is on pace to be completed this fall.

"We're about right on schedule for the work to be done in the middle of October," Babcock said. "That's when we were estimating we'd be done. We really haven't had any delays, so things are moving right on schedule."

It will take about 10 days to survey the road and create a computer-generated model that will guide the paving equipment.

Surveying the southbound lanes took more than two weeks, but Babcock said the process should be quicker for the northbound lanes.

"There was more time spent establishing control points," Babcock said. "That took them a little while. Now that those are out there, it won't take as long."

Considering that time table, motorists should see concrete milling during the Clay County Fair.

With the potential for more traffic comes the need for more caution.

"Drivers have gotten used to crossing the southbound lanes to get to the northbound lanes," Babcock said. "Now, that will be the first place they encounter traffic so they need to be aware of that."

The IDOT has changed their electronic sign message to get drivers' attention and remind them to look both ways.

"The sign's been out there a while and people get used to seeing it and don't pay attention, so we changed it to get their attention," Babcock said.

He added that the newly constructed lanes are "very smooth and it's easy to go fast," so people need to be cognizant of the speed limit. It remains at 45 mph until the Spencer Livestock Sales turnoff and 55 mph to Milford. A speed trailer will soon notify motorists of their speeds.

Drivers are reminded that traffic fines are at least double in work zones.

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