Almost 60 years after the dream to widen Highway 20 across Iowa began, the end is in clear sight.
According to a Nov. 18 Journal story by Bret Hayworth, next year will be the year this key Siouxland goal reaches the finish line, with completion of work to four-lane the last 40 miles of Highway 20 between Moville and Early.
"We are actually looking prior to Nov. 1 (of 2018)," Dakin Schultz, Iowa Department of Transportation traffic planner, told Hayworth. "Everything is on schedule."
Not only is work on schedule, but the cost for completion of the final 40 miles will be some 25 percent below the original projection of $286 million estimated in 2015, Schultz said.
In large measure, the accelerated timetable for completion of Highway 20 contained in a five-year plan for Iowa road construction projects approved by IDOT two years ago is attributable to:
* The 10-cent gas tax increase passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad in February 2015. Without the increase, one can only speculate on how much longer this side of Iowa would have had to wait for an end to Highway 20. One of the arguments we used in advocating for a hike in Iowa's gas tax at the time was its potential positive impact on Highway 20.
Legislators who voted for the increase not only provided an important boost for Highway 20, but a critical infusion of money for important transportation infrastructure projects across Iowa. According to a Nov. 20 story from The Journal's Des Moines bureau, the gas tax increase so far has produced more than $500 million in additional revenue for hundreds of road and bridge construction or repair projects in each of the state’s 99 counties. At the time the increase passed, the annual deficit for road-and-bridge needs in Iowa was almost $1.5 billion (for critical needs, more than $200 million) and, according to the Federal Highway Commission, the state ranked second worst in the nation for the number of "structurally deficient" bridges.
* Determined proponents - private interests, such as the indefatigable U.S. 20 Corridor Association, and local, regional, state and federal public leaders - who remained firm in their commitment and worked to keep the profile of Highway 20 high during roller-coaster years of lobbying, including dark days of disappointment.
Barring something unforeseen, Highway 20 will be done in time for next year's busy holiday travel season. We join Siouxlanders in counting down the days to this long-awaited celebration.