Thirty-and-a-half miles of unfinished road work are keeping Woodbury, Ida, and Sac counties from growing and developing the way they should, according to U.S. Highway 20 Corridor Association President Shirley Phillips.
"In economic development, the first thing they ask is what you have for transportation. If you're not within 30 miles of a four-lane road, you automatically get kicked off the grid as a possibility," Phillips said.
Highway 20's two-lane to four-lane conversion started as far back as 1960. It's the main east-west thoroughfare in Iowa, hosting heavy truck traffic traveling across the state.
Now, with a whole new group of Iowa DOT commissioners, the Highway 20 Association has to start lobbying all over again.
"It's disheartening to us that we only have one commissioner west of I-35. Certainly, we hope to educate them in the next few months as to how important it is," Phillips said.
Phillips says the gas tax that funds Iowa's road projects, isn't enough. The federal government is requiring more fuel efficient cars, and companies are using tax-free natural gas in delivery trucks.
At Friday's annual Highway 20 meeting, involved officials discussed the project, and its lack of scheduled completion date.
The estimate is $404-million, but that goes up, the longer it takes.
"We do need this highway done; not only for those of us along the corridor, but for the state of Iowa," Phillips said.
Economic Development Director Marty Dougherty says the effects are certainly felt, all the way in Sioux City.
"Good transportation, good highways in all directions can benefit a community and the economy of a region, and that's what we're lacking here by not having [Highway] 20 completed," Dougherty said.
As long as the literal and figurative road ahead may be, officials involved in the Highway 20 project say they're committed to seeing it through to the finish, regardless of the time or money involved.
"We've been advocates, along with the Highway 20 group, and it's always been a very strong group. We're so close to being done. Our community leadership will continue to push," Dougherty said.
And push they will, as they head to another meeting with the DOT Commissioners, coming up this fall.
Federal funding for highways across the nation is also in jeopardy, because the Federal Highway Trust Fund is set to expire on September 30.
Many in attendance at Friday's meeting said they're optimistic the House will sign an extension next week in Washington, D.C. but that will only carry funding through the end of May next year.
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