Signs are posted for miles to the north and west of the Davenport stretch of U.S. 61 that includes Welcome Way, River Drive, and Brady and Harrison streets. All of them warn truckers about low railroad bridges in the downtown area, often to no avail.
In 2000, sensors were installed on Harrison that trigger lighted signs warning oversized 18-wheelers of the low spans, and still the bridges continue to take their toll.
Now, after a presentation made Thursday at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting, some aldermen want to move ahead with a plan to rename U.S. 61 through Davenport as U.S. Business 61 to discourage drivers from unnecessarily motoring through town and meeting the so-called truck-eating bridges.
Instead, the loop of interstates 80 and 280 to the north and west of the city would be designated U.S. 61. Truckers with no deliveries to make in the city would be encouraged to use that route instead.
“We would rename 61 as the interstate around Davenport,” said Gary Statz, city traffic engineer. “If they’re not coming here, there is no reason for them to come downtown.”
An average of eight trucks per year hit the railroad bridge while going northbound at East 5th Street on Brady, Statz said. The bridge on Harrison claims an average of about six southbound trucks per year.
Besides blocking traffic and creating backups, the accidents tie up city police and public works crews, said Dee Bruemmer, Davenport’s public works director. There also are concerns that the trucks could be carrying hazardous or dangerous materials.
Truck drivers involved in accidents at the bridges frequently tell officials they are routed through the downtown by their company dispatchers, said Doug Rick, area engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation, or DOT.
“They tell us they are told to stay on 61 regardless of the height of their trailers,” he added.
Changing the designations would take an act of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said Fred Dean, an area planner for the DOT. The national association is in charge of maintaining standards for the naming of U.S. highways.
Once an application has been submitted by the city asking for the change, it would take up to eight months for the designations to be put in place and for changes to be made to highway maps, he said.
Aldermen Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, and Bill Lynn, 5th Ward, said the changes need to be requested as soon as possible. “It makes sense to pull as much of that heavy traffic off our streets as we can,” Lynn said.
But Bruemmer cautioned that the city should get input from business along U.S. 61 to see how they feel about the changes. With such a move, the city may not only rid itself of some truck traffic, but it also could lose drivers who otherwise may have stopped for a meal or to patronize some other business.
Rick also warned that the change would not mean the truck-eating bridges would go hungry.
“Hopefully, you’ll eliminates some of the hits, but I don’t think you’ll eliminate all of them,” he said.
Tom Saul can be contacted at (563) 383-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name change: U.S. 61 through Davenport would be renamed U.S. Business 61.
Rerouting traffic: Loop of interstates 80 and 280 to the north and west of Davenport would be designated U.S. 61
Why: Low railroad bridges on U.S. 61 at East 5th and Harrison streets, and East 5th and Brady streets in downtown Davenport claim an average of 14 trucks each year.
What’s next? Changing the designations would take an act by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and would require an application from the city asking for the change.