Republican State Sen. Rick Bertrand of Sioux City deserves praise for continuing to push the four-lane completion of Highway 20.
In public fashion, Bertrand this month generated valuable pre-legislative session extra attention for the long-planned, but still-unfinished project.
In a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad (published as a guest column on the Journal's Opinion page Wednesday and published in other Iowa newspapers, as well), Bertrand proposed the investment of surplus money in the state budget - $90 million in each of the next four years, for a total of $360 million - to get the job done.
On Monday, Branstad said he supports finishing Highway 20 "as quickly as we can," but he didn't endorse Bertrand's funding proposal.
While we support a hike in the state's gas tax (something Bertrand has opposed in the past) as a means by which to raise more money for necessary transportation-infrastructure work in Iowa, including Highway 20, we give Bertrand credit for his commitment to the four-lane project and for suggesting funding alternatives for consideration.
(During the last legislative session, Bertrand and State Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, also co-sponsored an amendment to include $25 million of additional Highway 20 revenue in an infrastructure bill, funded largely by gambling profits, but the amendment was defeated.)
On this, we couldn't agree more with Bertrand: It's time to wrap up Highway 20. Each time it appears momentum is building for completion of the project, it seems something happens to diminish enthusiasm.
The Iowa Department of Transportation's new five-year plan falls far short of delivering the money necessary to complete Highway 20. A total of only $118.3 million is planned for Highway 20 work in Woodbury County between 2014 and 2018, leaving the stretch of highway between Correctionville and Early unfinished.
Simply put, this is an unacceptable pace for a project whose roots stretch back more than 50 years.
We appreciate Bertrand's efforts to keep Highway 20 on the front burner and urge him to continue championing this important, deserving project. A big part of the battle for funding of any project is making sure the profile of the issue remains high.
We have all heard the "out of sight, out of mind" adage. Bertrand is doing his best to make sure that doesn't happen to Highway 20. Good for him.