SIOUX CITY | Residents near the road that will become a detour during the U.S. Highway 20 modernization are not looking forward to 2016.
That's when Highway 20 will be closed for work west of Correctionville, requiring a detour onto eight miles of County Road D22, or what residents still call Old Highway 20.
"That is one windy son of a gun. The less you are on that Old 20, the better," said Greg Manker, of rural Moville.
The Woodbury County Board on Tuesday approved an agreement to grade Highway 20, a key step in the process to widen a 12-mile section of the two-lane roadway. The Iowa Department of Transportation plans to finish the project, from two miles east of Moville through Correctionville, by 2017.
The county is in charge of altering intersections of Highway 20 with county roads.
The portion approved Tuesday will be paved in 2016. The four-mile portion nearest to Correctionville will be completed at a later date, said County Engineer Mark Nahra.
To get ready for the detour, the weathered Old Highway 20 will be widened and repaired in 2015, Nahra said.
Manker said that's a good step, but highway will still have lots of long curves where traffic slows. He said some drivers won't like being held back to a slower pace.
Manker lives along D22 just west of the detour route. He uses Highway 20 to haul grain trailers east to Correctionville, sometimes daily.
Officials say it is the best way to route traffic.
Old Highway 20 runs roughly one-half mile parallel south of U.S. Highway 20. It became a county road when the newer highway opened.
Danny Irwin, manager of the Western Iowa Co-Op in Correctionville, said many of the elevator's users wouldn't see a big impact when hauling to town. But farmers living north of Highway 20 will have difficulty crossing the road and need alternative routes, he said.
"It is going to be a pain and we are going to have to work around it. It is nothing we can't handle," Irwin said.
IDOT officials wanted to keep U.S. Highway 20 open without a full closure, but the difficulty of work with bridges and the highway near the Little Sioux River Valley just west of Correctionville has complicated plans, Nahra said. Additionally, there is need for more environmental studies, after discovery of American Indian historic sites along the road.
Advocates for the highway widening point to a safer thoroughfare and the ability to boost economic growth.
River Valley School District runs buses out of Correctionville on Highway 20 and Old Highway 20. Principal Valery Fuhrman said those routes will need to be altered, but she doesn't see that as problematic.
"It is a short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain," Fuhrman said.
Of the 300-mile span of the highway across Iowa, 44 miles in western Iowa are left with two lanes, from Moville to Early, Iowa. The estimated cost to widen that section to four lanes is $375 million.
IDOT funding is allocated in a series of rolling five-year plans. The next five-year plan will be set in June, when the updated timeline for the U.S. Highway project will be detailed.
NOTE: A previous version of this article included a Nahra quote that incorrectly said there was an American Indian burial site near Correctionville.