Highway 20 crucial to area
Local State Representative Mary Lou Freeman feels northwest Iowa is being set up for a financial sucker punch, and particularly at-risk are dollars to finish the four-lane corridor of Highway 20, as well as other transportation needs.
"This is definitely a set-up," said Freeman, a veteran lawmaker from Alta.
She points to a series of stories in the Des Moines Register that she says are designed to justify more state funds going to southeast Iowa, and less to northwest Iowa.
Last Friday, the Register's front page reported that "Southeast Iowa reels, while the northwest sees better times" in employment. On Monday, the Register's page one story reported that a University of Iowa study shows that building new four-lane highways to serve lagging areas is usually not an effective means to stimulate economic growth.
Freeman claims that the articles together could be very damaging to northwest Iowa's hopes, and that it is no coincidence that they come out just ahead of a major Department of Transportation public forum to be held in Spencer July 30.
"I think that the Register is interested primarily in metro Iowa, and I think they are trying to influence things," Freeman said.
The state representative said that she does not feel the legislature is biased in favor of urban over rural, or populous eastern Iowa over the more rural west - "at least not intentionally."
Officials of the Storm Lake region and the surrounding area must become very proactive, or will risk losing their fair shot at money from the new Iowa Values Fund, transportation five-year plans and other programs.
Her immediate concern is the long-awaited Highway 20 four-lane project from Fort Dodge to Sioux City, which area officials have painted as a key to future economic development in northwest Iowa. "What the DOT would like to do is make it a 'Super 2' - that's a two-lane highway that would bypass towns and have passing lanes every five miles - for right or wrong."