WATERLOO — Sheriff Tony Thompson said the condition of Black Hawk County’s gravel roads was not responsible for a fatal accident last week north of Cedar Falls.
“The accident investigation indicates that was not related to roadway conditions,” Thompson said Tuesday. “The neighbors in the area also kind of concurred that was not a contributing factor to that accident.
“I know (the supervisors) have been getting a lot of calls on the condition of the gravel roads,” he added, “but this actually happened in an area that was in relatively good shape.”
Gilmore Taiber, 17, of Janesville, died May 30 in the 7500 block of Leversee Road when his northbound car left the roadway, rolled and he was ejected.
Sheriff’s personnel and county engineering staff investigated the crash scene and determined the cause was “driver performance,” Thompson said.
The accident occurred as county roads across Iowa are recovering from a severe case of frost boils caused by record precipitation and an extremely wet spring. The soft conditions left many roads, including portions of Leversee, virtually impassable earlier this year.
The situation led to several social media posts last week from residents suggesting the road conditions played a role in Taiber’s death.
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Members of the Board of Supervisors noted complaints to their office about the county roads, which were heavy in March and April, have subsided during the last month.
“The gravel roads are slowly improving,” said County Engineer Cathy Nicholas. “We think that working these extra hours is really going to make a difference, especially if the rain would start to taper off.”
Road crews have been working overtime Monday through Friday placing rock and grading roads.
County officials heard calls in the past to pave Leversee Road from Dunkerton Road north to the Bremer County line, especially after the Iowa Department of Transportation completed an interchange at U.S. Highway 218 and Cedar-Wapsi Road, closing off the other U.S. 218 crossroads.
IDOT traffic counts show vehicle traffic on Leversee grew some since the interchange opened in 2016. The stretch between Bennington and Cedar-Wapsi roads saw the most traffic growth, jumping from 80 vehicles per day in 2014 to 120 vehicles in 2017.
“We know we need to make some improvements on Leversee Road,” said Nicholas, noting the project was not in the county’s current five-year plan.
Nicholas said the county did make a commitment to work on roads in the northwest portion of the county when the Cedar-Wapsi interchange was constructed. She hopes funding can be identified for those improvements in the next five to 10 years.