Work has wrapped up on a 60-year project to widen a state highway stretching from eastern to western Iowa. Officials will celebrate the conversion of U.S. Highway 20 to a four-lane road on Friday.
Since 1958, Iowa’s Department of Transportation has worked on and off to widen the 300-mile Highway 20 from Dubuque to Sioux City section by section. The state passed a fuel tax increase in 2015 that allowed work to begin on the final 40 miles from Early to Moville in western Iowa.
Dakin Schultz, a regional transportation planner for Iowa’s DOT, says since then, the state worked to resolve right-of-way purchases and design issues to get everything done.
"You think about the last 40 miles, we’ve essentially had three years of detours for different portions of it," Schultz said.
The 40-mile section is estimated to cost $326 million, according to a 2015 transportation progress report.
Shirley Phillips, the president of the U.S. Highway 20 Corridor Association says the four-lane highway will help trucking companies save shipping money. Dispatchers have traditonally had to route trucks along I-35 to I-80 and through I-29 to get across the the state because "trucks figure four lane roads are safer," she said
Phillips said the four-lane highway will also help attract businesses to northwest Iowa. She is a former economic development director for Sac County, and recalled how difficult it can be to bring businesses to more rural areas.
"As we were looking to encourage businesses to locate in our area, we either had to be close to a railroad or close to a four-lane highway, which we had neither," Phillips said. "By having a four-lane highway come through the largest quadrant of Iowa which is the northwest corner, it’s going to benefit all of the communities along the way. "
In the town of Holstein, which sits on Highway 20 in Ida County, local officials are hopeful the highway improvements will bring more business to them. Holstein City Administrator Kay Hanson said the town has 12 vacant lots ready for purchase, and she hopes their location along the highway will attract development.
"With the accessibility of the truck traffic, it will make our industrial lots much more appealing to businesses who want to come and locate here because of our benefits," Hanson said.
The state opened the final section of Highway 20 from Correctionville to Holstein Wednesday. Officials will host a ribbon cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday in Holstein.