Sections of Interstate-29 and Interstate-680 in western Iowa that have been closed for the last week due to area flooding are now open again to motorists, the Iowa Department of Transportation announced Friday afternoon.
The third round of flooding this year from the Missouri River spilled water onto sections of I-29 and I-680 in western Iowa. Iowa DOT reopened I-680 from the Missouri River to the I-29 interchange and I-29 from Council Bluffs to Crescent around 4 p.m. Friday because floodwaters have receded and cleanup has finished in these portions, the agency said.
Austin Yates, a traffic operations engineer with the Iowa DOT, said there is still a threat of rain in the forecast, but officials are not expecting it to cause any problems.
“We have people on constantly on patrol. We have people constantly monitoring our cameras and keeping track of the water levels,” Yates said.
Transportation officials are monitoring the area and Yates said if they need to close ramps and sections of the roads again, they will. The Iowa DOT is keeping 10 miles of I-29 from Crescent to Loveland closed.
“That 10-mile stretch is still closed because we have about a mile of it that’s still underwater,” Yates said. “That’s about from mile marker 67 to 68 is still completely underwater.”
The Missouri River levels have been slowly decreasing. The river is in minor flood stage at some gauges near southwest Iowa. It is expected to dip below minor flood stage in Omaha, Nebraska, this weekend.
Closing A Section Of I-29 Creates A Problem For Large Trucks
Last week, the Iowa DOT placed variable message signs along Northbound I-29 from Loveland to Council Bluffs informing drivers of the detour and alerting them of the low clearance of a pair of tunnels nearby.
But Yates said GPS and other navigation systems don’t reflect the road closures, and some semi-trucks passing through the area seem to be “blindly following” their GPS into tight tunnels near Loveland in Pottawattamie County and Missouri Valley in Harrison County. The overpass near Loveland has an 11-foot clearance. The other has a 12.5-foot clearance.
“And semi-trucks are 13.5 feet tall,” Yates said. “They can’t make either of those.”
Harrison County Sheriff Patrick Sears said over the last week, two semis have gotten stuck under the overpass about a mile east of I-29 in the Missouri Valley area. Many more have driven close to the overpass and became stuck trying to turn around. He said it’s tough on his department that sometimes only had two officers on duty.
“It’s a huge drain on our manpower and our response,” Sears said.
Sears said his office calls wreckers to help free the trucks from under the tunnels. Local law enforcement also works to redirect and stop traffic in the area while the wreckers are at work.
Trucks need to know how tall they are and pay attention to the detour signs, Sears said.
“There’s 15, 16 signs between Council Bluffs and the 25 miles up here to Missouri Valley,” Sears said. “Just read the signs.”
The Iowa DOT and Iowa State Patrol are encouraging drivers to pay attention to the signs on the road rather than their GPS. Trooper Scott Miller said detours can be “inconvenient and frustrating,” but the Iowa State Patrol and the DOT are trying to “do the safest thing for the motoring public.”
“Follow the official detour. Just because you think you know the roads or a different way, I would not go that way,” Miller said. “Never drive through barricades of a road closed and never drive through water that is over the roadway.”
Yates said with the section of I-29 between exit 61 and exit 71 still closed, he still expects there to be a problem with the two low tunnels, but with ramps now open at I-680 from the Missouri River to the I-29 interchange, they can “effectively route” semi-trucks and keep them on the interstate.