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THUMBS UP

Prudent

A study of Interstate 80 traffic in Iowa, which will include opportunities for input from the public, will be completed by May, according an Associated Press story in Wednesday's Journal.

The study of improvement options is prudent, given the fact the Iowa Department of Transportation predicts a significant increase in traffic on I-80, already the state's heaviest-traveled east-west road, over the next 20 years.

Options for improved I-80 traffic flow discussed in the story included use of truck-only lanes, expansion of I-80 to six lanes and expansion of east-west Highways 30 and 34.

We look forward to reading details of IDOT's report on the study.

Nebraska will discuss voter ID

Nebraska lawmakers will take up consideration of voter ID legislation during their 2018 legislative session, The Associated Press reported in Tuesday's Journal.

Sen. John Murante of Gretna said he will introduce a voter ID bill.

As an additional layer of protection for the integrity of elections, we long have supported a requirement voters show some form of identification.

Under a bill passed this year by the Iowa Legislature, which we supported, voters will need to show an acceptable form of government-issued ID before casting a ballot at polling places. If a voter doesn't have one of the acceptable forms of ID, the state will issue him or her a voter-verification card, free of charge. A request for an absentee ballot will need to include an acceptable personal identification number, as well.

Cone Park opens

Thirty-six years after her death, Ruth Cone's dream of a new park in Sioux City became reality on Dec. 21 as Cone Park - created on 10 acres of land near the IBP Ice Center and Lewis and Clark Park - opened to the public. In the beginning, amenities will include a day lodge, tubing hill, ice-skating pond (the skating rink, which will be ready sometime in January, will be converted to a splash pad for use in summer months) and snow-making equipment. A trail will connect Cone Park to Sertoma Park.

The project represents a significant, unique addition to our community's impressive, diverse system of parks. We have full confidence Cone Park will be a popular draw for both residents and visitors.

Saga ends

On Dec. 19, Chief Bankrupty Judge Thad Collins approved a settlement between the city of Sioux City and Civic Partners, the Huntington Beach, California, developer of the downtown project commonly known as the Promenade complex. The agreement will allow the city to recoup up to $1.45 million of the $2.5 million it spent on this ill-fated deal, which aside from the successful Promenade Cinema 14 movie theaters produced little of what was promised.

Removal of the litigation cloud from above the complex also means removal of a significant barrier to filling additional space (aside from the movie theaters, only one other business leases space in the complex today).

The settlement agreement was reachedat a time when construction of a new Courtyard by Marriott hotel across Fourth Street from the complex is planned. In our view, the hotel not only will provide a boost to the Convention Center next door, but should boost prospects for filling this complex.

More tenants for the complex will mean increased traffic in this area of downtown and more traffic should be beneficial to business for the movie theaters and for the other current tenant, 6 South Design, not to mention for the city's tax rolls.

THUMBS DOWN

Opioid deaths have 'huge impact'

Deaths from drug overdoses climbed 21 percent in 2016, dragging down the life expectancy rate in the U.S. for the second consecutive year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Dec. 21. This marked the first time in more than half a century U.S. life expectancy declined for two years in a row.

Drug deaths increased from 52,000 to 63,600. Two-thirds of those deaths, or about 42,000 deaths, involved opioids.

"This is urgent and deadly," Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, said of the nation's opioid epidemic. The epidemic, she said, "clearly has a huge impact on our entire society."

The life expectancy of a baby born in the U.S. in 2016 is, on average, 78 years and seven months.

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