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Retro road trips still available for today’s driver

May 3, 2009
By JESSE HELLING, Messenger staff writer

The Fort Dodge area is currently served by four state-maintained highways: U.S. Highway 20, U.S. Highway 169, Iowa Highway 7 and the "secret" Iowa Highway 926 - which is marked as Business U.S. Highway 169.

Since the Iowa highway system was established in 1920, these routes have undergone several transformations in Fort Dodge. However, large stretches of superseded routes are drivable today - indeed, many are heavily-traveled city streets.

Based on a 1920 road map and research from the Iowa Department of Transportation and The Messenger's archives, the original routes of these highways are as follows.

U.S. Highway 20

U.S. Highway 20 came to Fort Dodge in 1926.

From the eastern city limits, the original route of Highway 20 followed Fifth Avenue South west to South 12th Street. There, the highway ran north to Central Avenue and west to South Third Street, which it followed to the Bennett Viaduct.

Crossing the Des Moines River, Highway 20 would have taken a right turn onto what is now Avenue C, traveling northwest to D Street. From there, the highway zigzagged through "Swedetown," following D Street south to Avenue D, then west to C Street, then south to Avenue G, then west to A Street, and from there out of town.

With the opening of the first span of the Kenyon Road Bridge in 1935, Highway 20 was routed away from the Bennett Viaduct directly onto Fifth Avenue South. This route remained basically unchanged until the current, four-lane Highway 20 opened in 1990.

Most of this route - with the exception of the Bennett Viaduct, which was dismantled in 1981 - still exists as city streets.

U.S. Highway 169

U.S. Highway 169 came to Fort Dodge in 1930.

From the south city limits, Highway 169 followed what is now Avenue B along the Des Moines River to L Street, which the highway followed one block west to Avenue C. Traveling northwest, Highway 169 made a right turn onto the Bennett Viaduct, which it followed to South Third Street with Highway 20.

Highway 169 continued to share Highway 20's route through downtown Fort Dodge. Drivers would then make a left turn onto North 12th Street, then travel east on Second Avenue North to North 15th Street, which carried Highway 169 north out of town.

Highway 169 was routed onto the Kenyon Road bridge in 1935, again sharing Highway 20's route along Fifth Avenue South to 15th Street, where drivers following Highway 169 north would have made a left turn. This route lasted until 1960, when the current alignment of Highway 169 west of Fort Dodge - roughly paralleling A Street - was completed.

Iowa Highway 7

Iowa Highway 7 was originally numbered Iowa Highway 5. From 1920 to 1926, Highway 5 was part of a route stretching from Sioux City to Dubuque. In 1926, the eastern portion of Highway 5, which ran from Fort Dodge to Dubuque, became part of U.S. Highway 20.

The 1926 alignment of Highway 5 entered Fort Dodge from the west at the same place Highway 7 does today. However, rather than turning south, Highway 5 followed Third Avenue Northwest to Second Street Northwest. From there, traffic would have made a left turn onto the old Hawkeye Avenue Bridge, which was built in 1916 and torn down in 1987 when a new bridge was built. Highway 5 followed Hawkeye Avenue to Fifth Avenue North to North Third Street. There, the highway crossed the Third Street Bridge and ended at Central Avenue at its junction with Highways 20 and 169.

With the completion of the Karl King Viaduct in 1960, Highway 5 was routed south with the then-new Highway 169 to meet the viaduct, upon which the highway crossed the Des Moines River to Second Avenue South. The highway followed Second Avenue South to South Eighth Street, along which it ran to meet Highway 20 at Kenyon Road.

During a statewide highway renumbering initiative, Highway 5 became Highway 7 in 1969. Despite the new number, the routing remained unchanged until 1990, when Highway 7 was shortened to end at its present location at Highway 169 northwest of Fort Dodge.

Iowa Highway 926

Iowa Highway 926 was established in 1990. The highway was created through an arrangement with the Iowa Department of Transportation and local officials, who wanted the state to continue to maintain the Kenyon Road and Karl King viaducts - which would have reverted to local control following reroutes of Highway 20 and Highway 7 that year.

Highway 926 is signed as Business U.S. Highway 169. The Kenyon Road portion is also signed Business U.S. 20. However, all portions of Business 20 that don't overlap with Business 169 are not state highways and are maintained by the city of Fort Dodge and Webster County.

Contact Jesse Helling at (515) 573-2141 or



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