Meagan DeGraaf –Staff Writer
It’s a familiar drive for any student who has ever left the campus—drive north to get to Sioux Falls; go south for Sioux City. Dordt College students are accustomed to driving on Highway 75. But recently, the Sioux Center city council has been considering making changes to the highway running straight through town.
City officials have tried for several years now to find an acceptable plan to widen the highway from one lane running each direction to two. This would be a complete update for the stretch of road, as it has not been completely repaved for ten years.
In 2013, the proposal was widely rejected. Then in early 2016, the city tried again, reaching a 56-44 consensus. Because the state of Iowa needs a super majority however, the proposal still fell short by four points.
An expansion on the highway could help Sioux Center grow, but people are still split about the idea. Many argue that the aesthetic aspect is important to the town, and that would be diminished by having five lanes of concrete instead of buildings or greenery.
Many agriculture students and area farmers are concerned about the possible expansion. Not only does land space have a possibility of being minimized to make space for the new road, but it also makes it more dangerous for workers crossing the road with tractors or other equipment.
Local businesses are worried about the development too, as their buildings could be affected by this expansion. If the highway grows too far they might have to move signs, parking lots, or even buildings.
Others argue this expansion is necessary to keep traffic regulated properly. In order to keep neighborhoods safe, the main highway needs to operate at the highest level of productivity. And some students agree, acknowledging that it often takes longer to get through town when there are too many drivers going the same way—usually right around the time local schools get out for the day.
“As this Highway 75 becomes more congested,” Assistant City Manager Dennis Dokter had to say, “the traffic has a tendency to back up or spread out into our residential areas, and we’d like to keep that main heavy traffic flow on Highway 75.”
One of the controversies here is that if traffic is increased, pedestrians may be placed in more danger. It can be hard to cross five lanes of traffic. A big highlight of Sioux Center is its promise of safety. That promise will weigh into consideration of the lane expansion. The city already has ideas for medians and crosswalks to keep pedestrians safe.
It will be a while before any actual construction gets underway—assuming the proposal goes through soon—but according to Dokter the goal for Sioux Center’s future is to create a more welcoming community “for today and for 30 years or more from today.”