HOLY CROSS, Iowa — Crews working on a stretch of highway in Dubuque County hope to give beleaguered residents something to be thankful for by the time holiday season rolls around.

Hugh Holak, resident construction engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, said Tuesday that work crews aim to finish the majority of an $8.9 million reconstruction project on a 5.2-mile stretch of U.S. 52 by Thanksgiving. That means motorists will have a straight shot from Rickardsville to Holy Cross for the winter.

Of course, Holak noted, that timeline is dependent on cooperative weather — a variable that has been noticeably absent throughout the month of September and early October.

“Tell me what the weather’s going to do for the next couple weeks,” he said jokingly to the Telegraph Herald.

And it still is a delay from the Nov. 1 anticipated opening date that project leaders announced when work began in May.

“It won’t get finished this year,” Holak said. “We’re trying to get the main section of the road paved so that way the road can be opened for winter.”

Work on the full pavement replacement likely will continue in the spring, but it shouldn’t require additional road closures, according to Holak. Some driveways still will need to be replaced and shoulders will need to be installed, but traffic likely will be maintained through the use of flaggers.

Utility relocation was more difficult than anticipated, leading to some delays, Holak said. But the real problem has been the unseasonably wet weather.

“When it’s raining, you can’t work that day,” he said. “We’re doing grading operations, and when it’s raining, it’s muddy and we can’t do much. Even after it quits raining, the next day you have to wait for the mud to dry out. You can’t do much then (either).”

Holy Cross Mayor Brian Maiers said the massive detour needed to accommodate the project — motorists were sent on Iowa 136, U.S. 20 and Iowa 32 — was challenging.

But that was made more manageable when the intersection of U.S. 52 and Holy Cross/Tollgate Road opened just before the start of the school year. That opened up a north-south route, making it easier to access larger communities along the U.S. 20 corridor.

“Everybody goes south for something, and taking gravel roads was a real pain,” said Maiers. “But since they opened up the intersection, it’s noticeably improved from an ease-of-access standpoint.”

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