New school creates concerns

BY DANIEL SEIDL | MAY 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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A new high school is creating concerns for local residents.

“Whenever something changes, it changes for the better for somebody, and it changes for the worse for someone else,” said Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan. “There are people who are going to be upset no what you do.”

At a joint meeting of officials from municipalities throughout the county on Monday, several residents expressed concerns about the roads around the location of the new North High School.

The roughly $63 million school is in the planning phase; it is projected to open in 2017.

The new school will be located at the intersection of North Dubuque Street and North Liberty Road. These roads are already relatively unsafe, without the inexperienced drivers the school will bring, said resident Daryl Granner.

“The perimeter out here has one of the highest collision rates in the entire county,” he said. “This is with experienced drivers. What happens when you put some 14- or 15-year-olds on who are just learning to drive?”

The increased student drivers in this area may not be a serious problem because it will draw student drivers away from other areas, Sullivan said.

“I think it’s important to point out that these students are already driving,” he said.  “In some cases, they’re driving farther and in more crowded conditions. You squeeze a balloon in one place and it pops out in another.”

Another concern of the county is ownership, Sullivan said.

“The future of that area is that it will not be county, it will be Coralville and North Liberty [property],” he said. “Everybody else in the county doesn’t want to see us put money into a road that North Liberty will annex. It’s really hard to justify putting tax dollars into that.”

While the county may not be planning to put a lot of money into the area around the new high school, the city of North Liberty is.

“North Liberty has been very, very aggressive in what they plan to do to address the needs of the new high school,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know how anybody could be upset with their plan.”

The intersection of Dubuque and North Liberty is one of the priorities for the city, said North Liberty City Councilor Chris Hoffman.

“I know that was a big concern,” he said. “It’s going to be widened, and it’s going to have a turning lane.”

Before the high school is built, the city will put in water and sewer services, said North Liberty City Councilor Gerry Kuhl.

“The most immediate thing is to be sure that we have the services out to that area,” he said. “We have our sewer and water in the design phase, and we are probably going to spend between $50 million and $60 million on that.”

In addition to the intersection, Kuhl said other improvements to the road are on the way.

“The roads are clearly on the radar,” he said. “The city staff of Coralville and North Liberty, along with the secondary-roads engineers with the county has been meeting regularly to discuss what the needed road improvements would be. We [just] don’t know what form that’s going to be taking.”

The Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County made a report on the traffic in this area in 2012, but that report did not take into account the new school. The organization conducted another analysis earlier this year, but the report has not yet been completed.

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