Jefferson City Councilman Larry Teeples, Greene Co. Chamber of Commerce Tourism Coordinator Angie Pedersen, and Exec. Director of Greene Co. Dev. Corp. Ken Paxton visited the state capitol in support.
April 14, 2016
DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad says “philosophically” it makes sense to four-lane more of U.S. Highway 30 in Iowa before expanding Interstate 80 into six or eight lanes across the state.
“My obligation as governor is to try and tie the whole state together,” Branstad said.
The governor spoke April 4 with a delegation of business and community leaders during U.S. Highway 30 Day at the state capitol. Led by Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa president Adam Schweers, of Carroll, about 20 people in the organization met with Branstad and state legislative leaders.
“Highway 30 is near and dear to Carroll County’s heart,” Schweers told the governor.
Other cities represented included Jefferson, Boone, Denison, Missouri Valley, Clinton and Belle Plaine.
Highway 30 is the longest road in the state, running a distance of 331 miles from the Mississippi to Missouri rivers. The U.S. 30 corridor spans 12 counties and 39 cities. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 551,000 people live in the 12 counties along the corridor, representing nearly 20 percent of Iowa’s population.
The population of those 12 counties increased more than 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2010.
A chief concern of the Highway 30 Coalition is that state transportation officials will seek to six-lane Interstate 80 throughout Iowa, foreclosing opportunities for development of Highway 30 as a relief route for 80 that would also boost the economies of the state’s second-largest city, Cedar Rapids, which has heavy grain traffic, as well as vast swaths of rural Iowa.
Mike Kirchhoff, president of the Clinton Regional Development Corp., and Douglas Burns, a member of the Carroll and Greene county development groups, stressed to Branstad that the issue of Highway 30 versus Interstate 80 is a rural-urban one.
“Remember that giant sucking sound Ross Perot spoke of? Well, that’s what you’ll hear with the transfer of economic opportunity from rural to urban Iowa if a super corridor from the Quad Cities to Iowa City to Des Moines is developed with six or eight lanes on I-80, while we are left with two lanes and no prospect for the economic-development growth that would come with four,” Burns said.
“We risk creating a permanent economic underclass,” Kirchhoff said of any decision to favor the 80 links over rural Highway 30.
Clinton City Councilman Tom Determann, vice president of the 30 Coalition and the retired head of Determann Industries, said six- or eight-laning all of Interstate 80 is too costly a project for Iowa.
Branstad said he sees Highway 30 in the same way he does Highway 20, which is being fully four-laned.
The governor said Interstate 80 is primarily a route for people coming through Iowa, while Highways 20 and 30 carry more local commerce.
“I have a strong interest in these highway projects, and I know how important it is,” Branstad said.
Branstad said the Iowa Department of Transportation makes the call on highway projects. He does, however, appoint the commissioners.
“I’m a fierce supporter of growing all of Iowa,” said DOT commissioner David Rose, of Clinton. He said four-laning 30 will provide relief to 80.
Kim Tiefenthaler, a member of the Carroll Area Development Corp. and the owner of Performance Tire & Service in Carroll, raised the safety aspect on Highway 30.
“It’s hard to pass on Highway 30,” Tiefenthaler said.
“Your point is a good one,” Branstad shot back.
The governor, speaking with Greene County Development Corp. executive director Ken Paxton, said he is familiar with growth and development in Greene County.
“For a small county, Greene County has had a lot of economic-development success,” Branstad said.
Schweers assessed the meetings as positive.
“We had a number of good ideas suggested to assist us in getting more investments made in Highway 30,” Schweers said. “I was very pleased that DOT commissioner Dave Rose was with us most of the day, and I believe the coalition will continue to build a strong safety and economic-development case for four-laning Highway 30.
“Improving Highway 30 is not just about attracting new businesses. It is about retaining the ones we have and providing a better commuter pattern for existing and future employees.”