As flood waters recede and Interstates 29 and 680 begin to reopen, concerns for the amount of traffic continuing to travel through the small community of Crescent still loom large for some of its residents and business owners.
Although parts of the interstates reopened Wednesday near Crescent and North 25th Street in Council Bluffs, I-29 north remains closed between Crescent and Loveland. Because of this, a high flow of interstate traffic continues along Old Lincoln Highway through the communities of Honey Creek and Crescent.
Business owners in Crescent have noticed the larger amount of tractors and semi-trailer traffic in the town, but the overlap of traveling guests haven’t impacted businesses in a positive way.
Henry’s Diner has experienced a slower amount of business during the interstate closings, although only a slight change in business has been seen since the interstates started to re-open last week.
Manager Dale Schmidt said everyone gets off work between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. and the traffic has negatively impacted those Crescent residents who commute — which, in turn, has effected business at the restaurant.
“(The increase in traffic is) making local people find it harder to get home or get here,” Schmidt said. “What we’re seeing is the people who would come earlier either aren’t coming at all or are waiting until later to leave,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said it is taking some drivers 30 minutes to get from Crescent to Honey Creek, a roughly six-mile drive that normally takes about 10 minutes. Still, he maintains a somewhat optimistic point-of-view.
“We haven’t lost as much as the farmers,” he said. “We are able to still serve food.”
A waitress at the Crescent Roadhouse Bar and Grill said there has been less business around town since the interstate closed, with a decrease in the number of patrons stopping to eat or visit the establishments along the city’s main strip.
Crescent City Clerk Tristan Morris echoed the frustration.
“People who see (Crescent) as a destination spot aren’t coming here because it takes them longer,” Morris said. “There have been vehicles traveling below or above the speed limit … some backing out of driveways because they get lost.”
Schmidt said he’s seen cars backed up for two and a half miles, and area law enforcement officers have had to direct traffic by the Casey’s General Store, located at a four-way stop on Old Lincoln Highway and Mormon Bridge Road.
“The sheriff’s department and state patrol has done a wonderful job, otherwise it would be three times as bad,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes they are standing there for one or two hours with nothing to drink and no breaks just to keep traffic going.”
Major traffic issues include vehicles not stopping at the intersection, following detours incorrectly, or getting stuck under bridges due to low clearance.
The bridge near Loveland that crosses Old Lincoln Highway and I-680 has a clearance that doesn’t typically accommodate taller vehicles. Bicyclists are also traveling at heightened risks, along with slower-speeding trailers and tractors that travel on the same high-traffic roads as semi-trucks and cars.
“Anytime there’s increased traffic, there are problems since (drivers) are not used to that flow of traffic,” said Sgt. Blair Paulsen of the Iowa State Patrol. “Between the police and state patrol, there’s been an officer there to help when the traffic is really heavy,”
Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker said law enforcement is spending more time and money in Crescent since traffic has increased. He urged the public to have patience when traveling in the area.
“It’s challenging trying to get that traffic around the I-29 closure,” he said. “We’re paying overtime. It’s a tough situation and hopefully the waters recede and 29 opens again. Try to be as patient as you can so everyone can get through safely. It’s tough on everyone.”