A road crew will begin work today to improve one of Iowa’s more dangerous stretches of roadway. It’s an S-curve on Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids. Paramedic Nathan Massell knows the S-curve well.

He travels through the area at least a half dozen times a day in an ambulance. Unfortunately, too often, the S-curve is the Massell’s destination. “It’s a really dangerous area that we have to deal with all of the time,” Massell says. “We do see a lot of fatalities out there, along with very nasty car accidents. And a lot of it stems from having bad road surfaces.”

From 2008 to 2011, police records show nearly 90 crashes happened along the short stretch of I-380. Iowa Department of Transportation Planner Cathy Cutler says over time, tires have worn out some portions of the road’s surface. That means there’s less friction between a car’s tires and the pavement. Tires aren’t sticking or grasping the roadway like they are supposed to, making the curvy stretch very dangerous.

The Iowa DOT’s solution is called a High Friction Surface Treatment. “It’s a polymer concrete application and some sharper, harder aggregate on top to increase that friction number,” Cutler says. The hope is the treatment will prevent tires from slipping and reduce the number of crashes. That’s something Massell is looking forward to.

“With the speeds and angles of the S curve, it would be beneficial to have,” Massell said. The unique project has never been done before in Iowa, but other states have had success in reducing accidents with the treatment, according to Cutler. The price tag on the project is about $500,000.

It’s funded with state and federal money. Roads crews are scheduled to do the work during overnight hours. Travel will still be permitted through the area at all times, as crews will work on one lane at a time.