Curtis Bridge Road

All of us on the Board of Supervisors have received multiple correspondences from constituents up in the Shueyville area regarding the condition of Curtis Bridge Road.  Clearly there is some coordinated effort going on, and in and of itself, that’s fantastic.  Always warms my heart to see folks exercising their right to petition their government for redress of grievances.

If you do not live in the area, you may not be familiar with the road in question.  It leads south from 120th street in Shueyville toward the reservoir and Sandy Beach road.  If you have ever noticed, from the I-380 overpass across the Res, an old bridge that was purposely collapsed off to the east side, that was the Curtis Bridge.  It was taken out when the reservoir was built.

Several residents in the area complain that the road is in rough shape, and it is.  Is it the worst road in the county?  Probably not.  I’d say that it is probably highway 965 north of the new work North Liberty has done, but that a subjective choice for anyone who is not a structural engineer.  Either way, that is not how the plans are made for which road gets what treatment when.

Mostly, the county is responsible for the roads in the unincorporated areas, that is, the roads that are not inside the boundaries of our cities (except state roads and interstates).  The department is called Secondary Roads, and they do all the repairs, the snow removal, clearing brush, etc.  Inside the various city limits, all that is the responsibility of city government.  Secondary Roads maintains a 5-year road plan, which you can see here.

Curtis Bridge Road is a slightly different situation.  As the new guy on the board I had to do some research and get some schooling on this.  State code says that if a city’s population is under 750 as of the last census, then the county is responsible for what are called “farm to market” roads.  Shueyville was still that small as of the 2010 census, so for example, the county does their snow removal on the designated farm-to-market roads.  This is why some people there believe the county should rebuild the road.

Most of the time in situations like this the county and the city negotiate some kind of agreement.  In 2015, the Shueyville City Council approached the County about such a negotiation for Curtis Bridge Road.  The Board of Supervisors of the time (this was before my election) offered them three scenarios:

  1. Do nothing.  City does not take jurisdiction and the county continues to maintain the roads.
  2. City pays for improvements on Curtis Bridge Road through and agreement where the city makes payments over a period of time (assume around 5 years).  No change in jurisdiction and the county remains responsible for maintenance.
  3. County completes improvements and city signs what is called a 28E agreement that transfers 120th street, Curtis Bridge Road and Club Road back to the city.  The city is then responsible for all future maintenance and receives road use taxes for that maintenance.

Over time, Johnson County has had such agreements with every city we have, except Shueyville.  Records do seem to indicate that the city council did discuss these options on June 15th, 2015.  However, the county never received a response on these proposals from the Shueyville City Council.  Thus in effect, they chose option one.  Therefore the aforementioned Secondary Roads 5-year plan remains the pertinent document, and Curtis Bridge Road is not on said plan.

I encourage everyone to take a look at that plan.  Note carefully the amount spent on each and the length of the projects.  On average, it costs $1,000,000.00 to build one mile of road.  Johnson County has 960 miles of roads.

It was interesting to me what fellow Supervisor Rod Sullivan pointed out in regard to one constituent’s complaint, wherein they said the found it hard to believe that the county can’t rebuild each road within 20 years.  The quick math tells you that is 48 miles of road per year.  By comparison, that plan shows that we have the resources to do 15.37 miles this calendar year.  12.07 next year.

There will always be a “worst road in the county” somewhere.  The county engineer and his team amend and update the 5-year plan every year, and perhaps Curtis Bridge ought to find its way onto it. But that is a decision best made by subject matter experts – by civil engineers – who have the proficiency to decide the priorities.