Celebrating Historic Highway 20

Signs will mark 1926 route across the country

After years of changes and upgrades to U.S. Highway 20, one group is now working to preserve the route’s past.

Efforts are underway to place “Historic Route 20” signs all along the former two-lane route, which served as the main street for countless communities across the nation after its creation in 1926.

The Webster County Board of Supervisors voted its approval of the plan at Tuesday’s meeting. The Fort Dodge City Council approved a similar resolution Monday night.

All communities and counties along the route have to signal their approval before the Iowa Department of Transportation will officially designate the historic route, said Kerrie Kuiper, executive director of the Fort Dodge Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Highway 20 is actually the longest route in the United States,” Kuiper said. “After U.S. Highway 6 was decommissioned in California in the ’60s, Highway 20 took its place.”

The route was 3,365 miles long, starting in Boston and traveling through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. By 1943, the route extended to the Pacific coast in Newport, Oregon. In Iowa, the road runs 333 miles from Dubuque to Sioux City. It forms the “Corridor of Commerce” in Fort Dodge — Fifth Avenue South — also passing through Duncombe and Moorland in Webster County.

“They’re trying to designate Highway 20 all across America, just like Route 66,” said Supervisor Keith Dencklau. “We’ll be placing signs along the route saying this is Historic Route 20. … I think there’s only a couple towns left in Iowa that haven’t signed it yet, and they’re talking to them.”

Efforts have been ongoing for more than 50 years to complete Highway 20 as a four-lane route across Iowa. While this road is important, the old route also plays a role in attracting visitors, Kuiper said.

“That will get our leisure travelers going back into those small communities and experiencing those communities that are along the route,” she said. “We’re excited about the four-lane 20. That opens up some really amazing opportunities to bring people to the area, but when you want to see the actual small communities, experience them, learn their character and experience the history of them, you really need to get off the interstate system.”

Signs are already up some places in Iowa, including Cushing and Webster City, according to the Historic U.S. Route 20 Association. The group reported that it met with all 32 towns along the route in October 2017.

The association is a nonprofit based in Massachusetts, formed in 2012. It has announced it will create a “passport” program to promote the historic highway, offering a history guide at various sponsor locations.

It’s not clear how soon signs might go up in Webster County. Kuiper said this will likely happen after the DOT officially designates the historic route.

“We are also in the process right now of figuring out where the signs would go,” she said. “This is basically the very first step of the project.”

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A railroad crossing near POET north of Gowrie will be getting flashing lights and gate arms for the first time.

The crossing on 320th Street currently has just a stop sign, said Webster County Engineer Randy Will.

Webster County Supervisors approved a permit for MidAmerican Energy to work in the county right of way, to provide power to the crossing being upgraded by Union Pacific Railroad.

In other business–whether running a business or a county budget, every penny must be accounted for.

Webster County Recorder Lindsay Laufersweiler spoke to the supervisors Tuesday to explain why she’s re-submitting her office’s quarterly report. It seems the original was off by 50 cents.

“The previous report was $44,429.61. It’s being amended to $44,430.11,” Laufersweiler said.

She and her deputy found the error when they were using this report to verify their year-end totals. The problem was due to how copy fees were reported.

“As soon as it was realized, there was a check written to the county treasurer’s office for 50 cents,” Laufersweiler said.

The fiscal year ends June 30.

The quarterly report includes money brought in for documentary stamps, transfer fees and change of titles, ATV/OHV license plate fees.

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