Osceola City Council will look at options to make the intersection of Highway 34 and South Kossuth Street safer for pedestrians after the council unanimously approved entering into an agreement with Veenstra & Kimm to come up with solutions during the Nov. 8 council meeting.
The move comes in the first business meeting for the council following an Oct. 19 accident at the intersection when a vehicle hit Clarke Community School District employee Paul Henry while he was putting stop signs out in the intersection.
Osceola residents rallied in support of Henry, and a group spearheaded by Deana Allen gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition to make the intersection safer.
Allen, Nicole Andrew, Cindy Norman and Bob Johnson spoke in front of the council during public comment session to brainstorm possible ideas of how to make the intersection safer.
All that discussion was taken into account when the council unanimously approved entering into an agreement with Veenstra & Kimm to come up with possible solutions for the intersection.
Currently, the intersection features three lanes of traffic on Highway 34, with one lane of traffic going in each direction east and west, plus a middle turn lane. The road also jogs, bending around a corner before straightening back out.
City Administrator/Clerk Ty Wheeler said the intersection also sees about 5,500 cars per day go through the intersection, according to new traffic counts. Much of that traffic goes through the intersection during peak hours in the morning and afternoon.
Since the Nov. 8 council meeting, Wheeler has been in discussions with Iowa Department of Transportation representatives on how to make the intersection safer.
One of the ideas discussed was to change the crosswalk pattern from the two parallel lines currently used to a block pattern, similar to the crosswalk seen on the cover of the Beatles album “Abbey Road.”
The blocks would be 10 feet in length, 2 feet in width and spaced out 2 feet from one another in the intersection.
“It sticks out. It’s to warn drivers this is a pedestrian crossing and they need to be vigilant of pedestrians,” Wheeler said. “That’s whether the school crossing is active or not, because that crosswalk is going to be there all the time.”
Painting of the new crosswalk lines may have to wait until the spring, however, because of the weather. But Wheeler said the city intends to change the crosswalk at the intersection of Highway 34 and South Kossuth Street to the block pattern.
Other potential ideas discussed included establishing a school zone speed limit, where the speed limit on Highway 34 would drop in the school zone. However, DOT officials did not feel that would be an effective way of slowing drivers.
Pairing a school zone speed limit with a speed feedback sign could be one way to alert drivers to how fast they are driving and cause them to slow down.
Another idea the city will look into is installing stop signs with illuminated LED lights around the eight sides of the stop sign.
One of the ideas brought up in public forum was that drivers are not used to looking for a stop sign on their left and that many drivers may not notice the stop sign that sits in the middle of the intersection.
“I did ask about that and there are some communities that post a stop sign that folds in half and when that four-way stop is established, you unfold that stop sign so you have that stop sign on the right, as well,” Wheeler said. “That’s another thing we’ll probably look at, as well.”
Veenstra & Kimm will work with city staff to consult on the effort to make the intersection safer and make sure whatever ideas the city comes up with will be agreeable with the DOT.
“We are actively working on this right now,” Wheeler said. “It is on the forefront.”