EARLY - The opening of a new four-lane section of U.S. Highway 20 in northern Iowa will likely be celebrated in late November, a year earlier than planned.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the debut of the four lane route between Iowa Highway 4 in Calhoun County and U.S. Highway 71 in Sac County is being planned for around Thanksgiving, according to Shirley Phillips, the president of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association.
Members of that group began making plans for the event Friday after an Iowa Department of Transportation official briefed them on the project's progress during their meeting at The Center in Early.
-Messenger file photo
These barricades near the junction of U.S. highways 71 and 20 near Early in Sac County will be coming down soon as the creation of another four-lane section of U.S. Highway 20 nears its end. The new segment between Iowa Highway 4 in Calhoun County and U.S. Highway 71 is expected to open in November, a full year ahead of schedule.
Dakin Schultz, a planner for the department, said that the ''main line paving'' should be done by the end of next week.
''That doesn't mean we're ready to open,'' he said.
Schultz said some work needs to be done on the shoulders of the new four-lane roadway. He said signs need to be installed and lines must be painted on the pavement.
He said Thanksgiving is the target date for completing all that work.
The project in Calhoun and Sac counties is on pace to be finished a full year ahead of schedule. The general contractor, Cedar Valley Corp., of Waterloo, is poised to receive a $750,000 bonus from the state for getting the job done by Dec. 21.
The date of the ribbon-cutting ceremony will depend on when the contractors have finished their work. During Friday's meeting, association members seemed interested in having the event near Early, where a new freeway-style interchange has been built to join U.S. Highways 20 and 71.
The section nearing completion is 26.2 miles long, and may be the last lengthy piece to be finished in the decades-long quest to widen the highway all across Iowa, according to Schultz.
However, it is not the final segment that needs to be widened to create a four-lane highway all the way between Dubuque and Sioux City.
After the piece in Calhoun and Sac counties is done, state highway engineers will shift their focus to the stretch between Correctionville and Moville, which are both in Woodbury County. Schultz said the Department of Transportation has started the process of buying land in that area.
He said construction of the new westbound lanes there will begin in 2014 and continue through 2016.
The route will be widened to five lanes in Correctionville during 2015.
Earthmoving to create the new eastbound lanes will begin in 2017, Schultz said.
The last piece to be finished is between Correctionville and Early. A schedule for widening that section hasn't been developed.