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Highway project threatens historic farm

For 85 years, Cleverley Farms has stood at the intersection of U.S. Highway 65 and Iowa Highways 330 and 117 in Mingo. A short distance down the road lies the intersection of Iowa Highway 330 and Jasper County Road F17. The Iowa Department of Transportation says those two intersections together are deadly, with 9 fatalities between 2001 and 2011. To remedy the situation and lower that figure, the DOT has proposed two plans to overhaul the intersections. Between them, Cleverley Farms could lose everything.

One plan would cost farmer Larry Cleverley, pictured above, and his sister their homes. Cleverley says Nearly half of his land would be made inaccessible by new turning lanes.

The other plan would also cost Cleverley and his sister their homes, as well as their father. Cleverley says its implementation would also require all of Cleverley Farms’ roughly 200 acres, which would be encircled with turning lanes and form the foundation of overpasses.

Cleverley doesn’t disagree that the intersection is dangerous, but his hopes that his farm would become a Century Farm are now cast in doubt. The DOT would compensate him for his land and home, but the farm is worth more than that to Cleverley.

I-I can’t… I can’t even tell you, you know, what it feels like to walk around on this land every day. I mean it’s… To think, you know, my grandfather farmed it; this is where my dad grew up… You can’t put a price on that.

Cleverley grows organic fruits and vegetables sold mainly to Des Moines-area restaurants; he says the response from his customers – and the community – has been overwhelming. A petition on Change.org has come within a thousand signatures of its goal, and the DOT’s website has been inundated with public comments.

Cleverley’s supporters have championed the idea of reduced speed approaching a stoplight at both intersections, but DOT District 1 (central Iowa) Engineer Scott Dockstader says a stoplight doesn’t work in this case.

Stoplights are installed when the Department goes through a detailed engineering study. We look at 8 warrants, and it’s kind of a nation-wide engineeering analysis that all organizations look at when they put in or install a stoplight. What that study does is it looks at eight different factors, and if any of those factors are met, and based on that engineering study, then stoplights are a potential solution at that intersection.
In this particular case, neither one of these two intersections meets any of the warrants for traffic signals.

The public comment period ends Monday, June 10, at 5pm.

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