Neighbors speak up about road safety on Leversee Road after student death

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CEDAR FALLS/JANESVILLE, Iowa – Some neighbors in Janesville are speaking up about road safety after a student died while driving to school on Leversee Road.

17-year-old Gilmore Taiber was driving on Leversee, when the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office says he lost control of his vehicle and overcorrected. The vehicle then rolled a number of times, and Taiber was ejected.

It’s been two months since this has happened, but neighbors are speaking out.

It’s no surprise, in Iowa, driving sometimes means the road changes from hard-surface to gravel. With winter weather, then spring rains, gravel roads can sometimes look like rollercoasters.

Black Hawk County Engineer Cathy Nicholas says there’s a lot of road real estate to fix. She says, “We have 500 gravel roads in Black Hawk County.”

This means laying new rock every day right now. “Conditions have improved a lot since back in March and April,” Nicholas says.

But the condition of Leversee Road, which runs from the edge of Cedar Falls to Janesville, is earning extra attention.

Neighbor Tully Thompson says he drives on the gravel road all the time, and he says when it rains, “the road turns to soup again,”

Viewers sent us pictures of vehicles stuck on Leversee. But irritation turned into something more after Taiber was killed when his vehicle rolled on Leversee.

Neigbhor Brynn Friedrich says her son was involved in a similar accident nearby. She says, “He remembers the back end of his truck slipping, loose gravel, he overcorrected, and hit the ditch.”

Friedrich says Leversee is on the way to the Janesville School District where Taiber was headed. She says, “We have many families with teens that must travel our road; it’s not safe for new drivers. It’s not a good first driving experience.”

Neighbors add that there’s more traffic on this road, after traffic patterns were changed three years ago.

The county engineer says, “There was an uptick in traffic, maybe 15 to 20 percent, after the interchange opened and the intersections were closed.”

But changing Leversee from gravel to hard-surface would not be cheap. It could cost around $2 million per mile. For now, the county is keeping a close eye on Leversee.

Nicholas says, “I’d say we have our motor-grader out there, probably every week.” And neighbors have noticed the change this month.

KWWL talked to the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office. They say Taiber lost control and rolled the vehicle. There are no signs he was speeding, distracted, or on his phone when the accident happened. The county engineer and sheriff did inspect Leversee, where the accident happened. They say at the time of the accident, that section appeared to be in good shape.

The county engineer also says they’re looking at making improvements to Leversee as part of their 10 year plan. They’re looking at grading it and putting in better drainage, making for a more effective way to get water off the road.

 

Amanda Gilbert

Amanda Gilbert

Multimedia Journalist
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