It was a long road to four-lane US 20

Shirley Phillips

Finally! Statewide Four-Lane US 20 Opens Opportunity

Hallelujah! Decades of tireless advocacy will be rewarded when a ribbon cutting marking completion of statewide four-lane US 20 is cut today on Oct.19, 2018.

In the early 1950s, plans for upgrading US 20 to a four-lane highway from Sioux City to Moville were conceived. On October 19, 1958, those plans were made reality as the first three miles of four-lane US 20 in Iowa opened just east of Moville.

Here we are, 60 years later celebrating the completion of statewide four-lane US 20 — not a moment too soon!

As you study the history of four-lane US 20 in Iowa, segments opened with some regularity across the corridor from the 1960s through the 1980s.

A gap in progress in the 1990s didn’t deter members of the US 20 Corridor Association (and the former Highway 20 West Association) from trumpeting the cause with stakeholders along the route, in the State Capitol, and beyond. We knew Iowa needed a second east-west four-lane route to provide a safe alternative for travelers and freight haulers.

In the 2000s, progress began once again and culminates this year as we joyfully anticipate the completion of statewide four-lane US 20.

There is no limit to the possibilities for economic impact this four-lane highway will have in northwest Iowa. Once the largest portion of land in the state not adequately served by transportation, statewide four-lane US 20 will not only maintain present industry. It will attract new opportunities for communities across the region. We see the evidence already in Holstein where the ribbon cutting will be held, Correctionville, Moville, and beyond.

Progress was slow but steady over the decades. There were a few key tipping points in the process.

• First was organization of the US 20 Corridor Association as well as the Highway 20 West Association. These two groups eventually merged and never let up the pressure to see the project complete.

• Access Iowa Highways legislation calling for cities of 20,000 or more population in Iowa to be connected by a four-lane highway was essential to restart a stalled process.

• Congressional earmarks for studies and construction were essential.

• TIME-21 passed in 2008 and provided more funding for Iowa’s aging transportation infrastructure as well as expansion.

• Then, in 2015, the increase in the state gas tax provided needed funds to accelerate completion of statewide four-lane US 20 in western Iowa while also funding much-needed maintenance of Iowa’s aging transportation infrastructure.

Along the corridor, we have a one-of-a-kind bridge in the Americas built in Hardin County – launched in 20-foot sections over the Iowa River Valley. In 2003 that stretch of road in Grundy & Hardin Counties – 26.9 miles was the largest stretch of four-lane to be opened since the interstate system in the 1950’s. We almost equaled that amount of miles (26.2 miles) when we opened the stretch from Rockwell City to Early in 2012.

As we reach this milestone and celebrate the progress it means for the entire state, there are so many people to thank for their dedication and passion for the project. Association members, federal, state, and local elected officials, Department of Transportation Commissioners and staff, as well as economic developers, chambers, and representatives of business and industry all played a role in seeing this long-awaited project completed.

I want to recognize Sharon Irwin, Mayor of Early for her 30 long years of dedication, Dave Ehler, former City Clerk of the City of Holstein who was involved way before I was – probably 40+ years of service. And none of this would have been possible without Ann Trimble Ray of Heartland Marketing Group in Early. She kept us organized, developed our website, Facebook page, newsletter, carried our message to Washington DC many times and so much more.

Many strong advocates from the Fort Dodge area were instrumental in our success and some are not with us to celebrate: Ed Augustine, V.H. “Buck” Boekelman, and Floyd Magnusson. They were all strong advocates and dedicated to the cause.

Celebrating with us from the Fort Dodge area are Bob Singer, Steve Hoesel, Daryl Watts (Eagle Grove), and Shirley Helgevold.

We lost many heroes for our cause over the years and their dedication will not be forgotten.

So over the years, you either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple.

And that’s exactly what we did as an association – we got much better at presentations, connecting with the powers that be, pleading the case for Hwy. 20, showing up in person – almost everywhere, and frankly being more tenacious.

You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down.

The one thing we didn’t do was STOP. If some felt we weren’t getting anywhere, there were others to bolster our spirits and keep us fighting.

The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.

The choice was ours – even though it took 60 years to accomplish this and those of us still standing didn’t “do” the 60 years, but many of us had 20, 30, or even more years in the association – we didn’t give up. That’s the important part – we were indefatiquable. If we were knocked down, we got back up. We found it hard to take “NO” for an answer because we knew this would be a great project for Iowa.

The US 20 Corridor Association will conclude its work and cease to exist at the end of 2018, the benefits of our advocacy will last long into the future as we are served by a modern, safe, and efficient four-lane highway.

Rest assured though that we will be watching transportation from the wings.

Shirley Phillips is president of the U.S. Highway 20 Corridor Association. This is the text of the speech she delivered on Oct. 19 at the ribbon-cutting officially opening four-lane U.S. 20 in Holstein.

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