# Iowa Department Of Transportation



Exclusive: Iowa trooper crash investigation details remain secret

John Morrissey, a freelance writer in Des Moines, follows up on his coverage of a fatal accident last year.

More than nine months after the crash that killed on-duty Iowa State Trooper Ted Benda, the Iowa Department of Public Safety has nothing more to say about the cause of his death, or its implications. The department’s technical investigation is classified as confidential.

The initial public incident report seems to attribute the accident to the trooper’s driving behavior. That was likely a contributing factor, but was it the sole cause?

The five-month technical investigation into this crash may or may not have considered a poor headlight rating, or higher than average driver death rates for the vehicle involved, as contributing factors. It’s unclear because the technical investigation report will remain secret unless it is sought as part of several exceptions to state law, none of which allow public review.

In response to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries, the department offered no explanation of steps it might have taken since Benda’s death to reduce future risks, such as testing the headlight aim of its Dodge Chargers, or reviewing the crash statistics for its workhorse patrol vehicle, or even providing a “don’t veer for deer” reminder to troopers.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I've posted links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor's race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Speak up for wiser investments in transportation

I learned from 1000 Friends Of Iowa that the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization are seeking public input on two important issues.

The DOT is finalizing the Statewide Public Transportation Study and will make recommendations to the state legislature in December. Officials want to hear from Iowans about:

   * Baseline level of service for public transportation in Iowa

   * Gap analysis between baseline service and public transportation demands of Iowans.

   * Transportation services needed to close these gaps.

   * The additional cost of these services.

   * Addressing Iowa's energy conservation goals.

   * The range of possible funding concepts to address service needs.

   * Draft findings of the study to date.

You can comment on any of these issues at public meetings in Centerville, Sioux City, Des Moines, Iowa City, Bettendorf, or Waterloo on September 15-17 (event details are after the jump). Alternatively, you can submit comments through an online survey at www.iRIDE21.com.

Anyone with an opinion on how to improve Iowa's passenger transportation should let the DOT know. You do not have to be an expert or policy wonk. Remember, public transit is not just for big city residents. An express bus or vanpool that takes people from a smaller town to work in a nearby larger city saves passengers money while reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Last year the weekly Cityview profiled Winterset resident Ann Pashek, who saves thousands of dollars a year through the Des Moines Area Transit Authority's Rideshare program.

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is hosting the last series of public input meetings on the Horizon Year 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan. They need to hear from central Iowa residents who are concerned about land use, air quality and global warming.

Although reducing vehicle miles driven is a critical element of any plan to address greenhouse gas emissions, the DMAMPO's plan for the next 25 years involves 341 projects that, if completed, would increase vehicle miles traveled in our region by 33 percent (by the DMAMPO's own calculations). 1000 Friends of Iowa adds:

The study also indicated that despite increases in [vehicle miles traveled], cleaner vehicles and fuels will result in continued reductions in vehicle pollutant emissions.  Gasoline was used in their project model.  However, when ethanol was used the increase in CO2 was 66% higher.  DNR Air Quality Division has studies which conclude that emissions with ethanol are substantially higher.   It seems this plan will not reduce VMTs or promote cleaner air.

The DMAMPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) is hosting the final series of public input meetings to receive input and comments on the HY 2035 MTP final draft. You must tell the DMAMPO that Central Iowans want to concentrate more transportation dollars on alternatives which will promote the responsible use of our states resources, land water and air. This is the most important series of meetings, please mark your calendars, plan to attend and make your opinion count!

The DMAMPO meetings are on September 15 and 16 at the North Side Library in Des Moines. Event details are in the 1000 Friends of Iowa action alert, which I've posted after the jump. That also includes talking points as well as contact information for those who prefer to submit written comments to the DMAMPO. Anyone can send a comment; you do not have to have attended a public meeting.

On a related note, today is the last day to submit a comment urging the DNR to protect water quality in Iowa's cleanest lakes and streams. Please take a minute to send an e-mail to the right DNR officials.

So much policy that affects our lives is made below the radar. If I weren't involved with 1000 Friends of Iowa, I would never have heard of these discussions about transportation priorities. If I weren't involved with the Iowa Environmental Council and the Sierra Club's Iowa Chapter, I would not have heard of the debate over water quality rules either. I encourage you to join some non-profit organizations that are active on matters important to you. You will become much more informed than if you rely solely on the mainstream media.

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Iowa DOT seeking input on passenger transportation funding

I received an action alert from 1000 Friends of Iowa about six important public meetings next week:

The Iowa DOT is presenting Iowans with a golden opportunity to encourage sustainable transportation and land-use before April ends. Whether you feel we need more bike-to-work lanes, passenger rail options, or goals to address climate change - this is your chance to be heard. Six meetings are being held across the state to seek the public's input on transportation needs.  [...] The Statewide Passenger Transportation Funding Study is seeking your input to identify gaps between current public transit, carpool/vanpool programs, intercity bus and rail services, and what you and your neighbors believe are transportation needs.  Using the information from these meetings and through other sources, plans will be made to address Iowa's future transportation plans.

Event details for the meetings in Ames, Atlantic, Ottumwa, Mason City, Cedar Rapids and Cherokee are after the jump.

Please spread the word among Iowans who would like to see more investment in public transportation and alternatives to driving. You don't have to be an expert to speak or submit written comments at one of these meetings. Just say a few words about where Iowa's passenger transportation is lacking and why you'd like to see it improved.

Remember, public transit is not just for big city residents. An express bus or vanpool that takes people from a smaller town to work in a nearby larger city saves riders money while reducing oil usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Last year the weekly Cityview profiled Winterset resident Ann Pashek, who uses the Des Moines Area Transit Authority's Rideshare program. Taking the van to and from Pashek job in Des Moines saves her thousands of dollars a year, and she can use the commute to "complete work or pay bills that would normally detract from valuable family time."

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