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$13.6 million construction project underway on Highway 57 in Cedar Falls

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) – A $13.6 million dollar construction project is underway on a busy road in Cedar Falls.

Crews are working on a stretch of Highway 57, also known as West First Street, from just west of Hudson Road to Franklin Street. They started utility work at the end of April, and they will begin road construction at the start of July.

As the early stages begin, some people who live in the area are raising concerns.

Jeff Johnson’s family has lived at 923 W. First St. for seven generations.

“It means a lot to us to be on the homestead,” he said.

When Johnson learned he would lose a chunk of his front yard, he was not happy. The highway will now be closer to his home.

“My overall emotions were very upset at first because as a homeowner, I was losing part of my historical family land,” he said.

Highway 57 is getting a center turn lane, meaning it will go from a four-lane highway to a five-lane highway. To widen the roadway, the City of Cedar Falls said crews will need to take up to five feet of land from some people’s front yards. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and the City are paying each homeowner for the land they’re acquiring.

“We appreciate their understanding, and we will do everything we can to make it as convenient as possible,” Pete Hjelmstad with the Iowa DOT said.

Stephanie Sheetz is the Director of Community Development for Cedar Falls. In an email to KWWL, Sheetz said there will be neighborhood meetings during each phase of construction. She said homeowners will be able to voice their concerns.

Across the street, Keith Bailey said while work has just begun, construction is already causing his family a headache.

“You know, construction is never fun to deal with while you’re going through it,” he said. “[West First Street] gets very backlogged or full of traffic and it does make it very hard to get in and out.”

Bailey has lived in his home with his wife and four young children since 2008. They knew construction would be a possibility, but they didn’t expect to lose land in the process.

“Anytime you lose property, it’s not fun because when you buy a house, you expect it to look awesome. You expect it to always be the same,” he said.

Bailey’s kids enjoy playing in the front yard, but he calls the work zone very dangerous.

“Basketballs have gone flying into traffic, kids have almost gotten hit. Thankfully, nothing bad has happened,” he said.

While both neighbors are upset they’ll have a construction zone in front of their homes, they believe the improvements will be worth it in the long run.

“It is frustrating but at the same time, we do need a turn lane,” Bailey said. “We do need the improvements.”

The Highway 57 corridor project is expected to finish in 2021.

It will happen in three phases:

Phase I: Franklin Street to Walnut Street: July–November 2019
Phase I: 
Railroad Closure: July–early September 2, 2019
Phase II: 
Walnut Street to Ellen Street: April 2020–November 2020
Phase III: 
Ellen Street to Hudson Road: April 2021–October 2021

For more information about the project, visit: http://www.cedarfalls.com/1101/Special-Roadway-Corridor-Projects

Olivia Schmitt

Weekend Anchor

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