Guest Opinion

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Highway 20 vs. Highway 30

Those of us living and working and relying on U.S. Highway 30 are, in the language of the locker room and the basketball paint and boxing corners, getting absolutely worked.

And out-gunned, out-maneuvered, out-foxed and just generally outplayed.

By the U.S. Highway 20 lobby.

And this must stop because we have the numbers and just plain, common sense

on our side.

Highway 30 should be completely four-laned before Highway 20.

Any outside observer not suffering from political astigmatism would arrive at that conclusion in less than the time in takes to drive from Carroll to Glidden.

We 30 folk have reason to be encouraged, though.

Finally, our side of the story is out there in a compelling, exhaustively researched and fact-packed feature in The Sioux City Journal, a story written by Bret Hayworth, a former award-winning reporter for the Daily Times Herald now working a little north.

The story - "Four-lane fight: U.S. 20 battles U.S. 30 for road funds" - ran on the front page of The Journal recently with a photo of Carroll Mayor Ed Smith and Carroll Area Development Corp. president Nick Badding. Hopefully, state elected and transportation officials read this story - twice.

"While both thoroughfares increased daily traffic counts about 5 to 6 percent from 2000 to 2002, U.S. 30 trumps that of U.S. 20," The Journal reports in its Sunday, Feb. 20, edition. "Both highways connect very small towns, but the vehicles daily driving U.S. 20 drops to about 2,000 at sites near Schaller and Lytton."

In 2003 the average daily traffic counts on Highway 30 in key locations:

Missouri Valley, 11,900; Logan, 6,100; Woodbine, 5,200; Dunlap, 3,410; Dow City, 3,740; Arion, 4,250; Denison, 6,200; Westside, 3,640; Arcadia, 3,420; Carroll, 7,400; Glidden, 7,000; Jefferson, 3,830; Grand Junction, 4,370; and Ogden, 4,890.

For the same time period that traffic count on U.S. 20 at various locations was: Sioux City, 16,500; Lawton, 8,800; Moville, 7,300; Correctionville, 4,010; Holstein, 3,040; Schaller, 1,890; Early, 2,860; Sac City, 2,150; Jct.

Iowa 196, 2,940; Lytton, 2,430; Jct. Iowa 4, 2,010; Rockwell City, 2,740; Moorland, 5,700; and Jct. U.S. 169, 1,380.

Along Highway 20 some of those counts are so low that one could probably sleep in the middle of the road at night and stand a good chance of waking up the next day, unscathed, and ready to walk 40 miles to the nearest sign of fully upright life.

For U.S. 20 to straight-face their case to decision-makers requires something akin to what Time magazine in its most recent edition called "The Math Myth," in a story on gender issues in education.

So why does 20 seem to have the jump on us?

Hayworth gets the answer straight from Iowa Department of Transportation's director Mark Wandro.

"The Highway 30 folks are not as organized" as U.S. 20 backers, Wandro said.

Hayworth also quoted state Sen. Mike McCoy of Des Moines as suggesting that the Highway 20 and 30 associations "need to embrace each other's causes."

We've all heard the sermons of regional growth and partnering, and generally speaking, it makes sense.

But where 30 and 20 are concerned, it's every man for his own highway.

In Carroll, Mayor Ed Smith, a forceful advocate for Highway 30, told Hayworth that he believes state and federal government officials are "listening a bit more earnestly to us, and that gives us hope."

The mayor makes a strong case that 30, besides having the advantage of superior traffic counts, "would provide necessary traffic relief off Interstate 80."

Since I-80 is about 40 miles south of U.S. 30 the latter could serve as a legitimate alternate, whereas Highway 20 is more like a pasture route for lost Minnesotans and their goats.

Just as important, with an increasing focus on biotechnology and a marriage of science and agriculture, it makes sense to connect Ames and Iowa State University by four-lanes with communities in eastern and western Iowa.

For our visionaries' dreams of a future Iowa to come off the shelf and take shape, Ames, the expected hub of a rejuvenated rural economy feeding on science and Iowa State University research and patents, must be linked with the rest of the state ˜-north, south, east and west - by four-lane highways.

It's time for all of us to make sure our elected officials have their directions straight.

* Douglas Burns is a columnist for the Caroll Daily Time Herald and a contributor to the Pilot-Tribune