Clinton County is seeking a grant to improve safety at a rural intersection that has been the site of many accidents, including a recent accident that claimed the lives of two Northeast graduates.

During Monday’s Clinton County Board of Supervisors meeting, County Engineer Todd Kinney said the intersection of 1400th Street and 400th Avenue has had quite an accident history. In July, Kristin Hanrahan, 18, of Delmar, and Jed  Rogis, 19, of Clinton, were killed in an accident near this intersection in a car driven by Justin Sparks, 19, of Charlotte. The vehicle ran off into the ditch and all three occupants were ejected from the vehicle.

According to a report by the Iowa State Patrol, Sparks was driving south in the 1400 block of 400th Avenue, about 2:50 a.m., when he allegedly ran a stop sign, his vehicle left the road and struck a tree. The vehicle overturned, ejecting all three occupants, none of whom were wearing seat belts.

Rogis and Hanrahan were pronounced dead at the scene, and Sparks, who admitted being the driver, was taken to Mercy Medical Center for treatment. Sparks was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication stemming from the collision.

Kinney said he has been working on ways to prevent accidents in is area. He said most accidents have happened when traffic signals were disobeyed. He has put up stop ahead signs and other markers to warn drivers. Kinney said all available advance warning options have been exhausted, except for a flashing warning beacon at the stop sign.

During an accident, the current alignment of 400th Avenue typically causes vehicles to end up in the ditch. Kinney said that by shifting the road 18 feet to the west the county can decrease the amount of damage from an accident.

“We can’t eliminate driver error, so we’re going to try to lessen the serverity of the accidents,” said Kinney.

During the Monday meeting, the board approved a resolution to submit a Traffic Safety Improvement Program Application to the Iowa Department of Transportation. The county is asking for a grant of approximately $70,000 for the realignment of 400th Avenue, south of the intersection and for an installation of a flashing warning beacon on southbound 400th Avenue, north of the intersection.

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