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Political Mercury

U.S. 30 advocates make case for four-laning in Iowa

3/18/2015

A collection of more than two dozen advocates — ranging from elected officials to business owners to economic-development leaders — took the case for the complete four-laning of U.S. Highway 30 across the state to the Iowa Department of Transportation recently.

The question-and-answer session with DOT Director Paul Trombino comes on the heels of the state’s enactment of a 10-cent-per-gallon gas-tax increase.

“We ask that you keep Highway 30 in mind. Remember, we are a growing corridor,” said Edith Pfieffer, president of the U.S. Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa.

Clinton City Councilman Tom Determan said the coalition has been a leading voice on the need for a gas-tax hike for a decade.

“I just hope Highway 30 really gets the attention it deserves,” Determan said. “We were the first coalition to realize the DOT needed more money and worked on it.”

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Jefferson City Councilman Larry Teeples urged the DOT to analyze the effects of new development in Greene County — the construction of a $40 million casino, an associated hotel, a new Hy-Vee store and a $22.5 million hospital expansion — on traffic in the region.

“There’s going to be a lot of traffic on Highway 30,” Teeples said. “For economic development, it’s quite a boon for us over there.”

Evan Blakley, executive director of the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County, noted that his county’s population increased by 14 percent since 2000, a rarity for rural areas in the state. The result of having a Latino-rich county with young people and favorable demographics is interest from businesses. But the lack of four-lane highway deters development, Blakley said.

“We just know they’re skipping over us,” he said.

Carroll City Manager Gerald Clausen led the coalition’s presentation to Trombino. Clausen’s over-arching case: Highway 30 provides logical relief to increasing traffic on Interstate 80 — and the economic-development argument for four-laning is there.

For example, during the meeting with Trombino, Jerry Mohr, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, referred to Cedar Rapids as the “Yankee Stadium” of grain because of the presence of so many operations dedicated to commodity processing.

Missouri Valley Mayor Clint Sargent, whose city is supporting a bypass for traffic and flood-mitigation purposes, said Blair, Nebraska, is something of a “Wrigley Field” for grain — and another argument for improvements to Highway 30 in western Iowa, Sargent said.

The U.S. 30 Coalition priority projects are:

• Carroll to Glidden

• Missouri Valley Bypass

• Ogden to U.S. 169-north

• Lisbon/Mount Vernon

• Tama/Toledo to U.S. 218

• Denison exchange

Following the meeting at the DOT, the coalition held a separate session at the Iowa Stater restaurant in Ames in which priorities were discussed. Members expressed some interest in, among other projects, prioritizing four-laning from Carroll to Jefferson, since the Carroll-to-Glidden section has among the highest traffic counts on the two-laned portion of Highway 30, and Jefferson is in the midst of a major growth spurt.

“That’s one of the heavier-traveled areas in western Iowa,” Clausen said.

For his part, Trombino said Highway 30 is a “priority” corridor. The sections of the federal highway that may be four-laned will depend on both usage and economic development, he said.

“We recognize the need for four-laning Highway 30,” Trombino said. “We just have to take a balanced approach.” CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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