Highway 71 back to four lanes

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Travelers who use Highway 71 south of the Iowa Great Lakes are in for a bit of good news - just in time for winter.

The stretch of highway from Milford to Spencer is now free and clear of construction.

The stretch of highway between Spencer and Milford had been reduced to single lanes of traffic in both directions for a number of months. The orange cones and closed lanes were part of the estimated $4.8 million construction project to improve the driving surface.

It had been a number of years since any serious work had been done this particular 12-mile stretch of road. The DOT felt the road's life span was up.

"Basically the condition of the old pavement needed rehabilitation and repair," Babcock said. "We were able to do a concrete overlay on the whole thing."

Some serious traffic crashes marred the beginning of the project, but slower speed limits were extended near Spencer and area patrol officers increased enforcement near the construction zone.

"I think traffic figured things out, and we maintained a pretty safe road after that," Babcock said. "It was just getting them used to the changes in the traffic."

Now that the project is nearly complete, Babcock said drivers will be more than satisfied with the results.

"It's a newer surface, it has a lifespan of 25-plus years," he said. "It's a nice, smooth ride. We've widened the shoulders and had them paved. It's a big safety improvement for the traveling public."

The Highway 71 project was one of the few in northwest Iowa to utilize stringless technology; road crews use a 3D software system to help pavers save time and money. The technology also analyzes the geometry of a road surface to enhance safety and efficiency.

"This has been a really good, quality project for the state," Babcock said. "Manatts did a great job. It went very smoothly and I am very pleased with it."

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