By Douglas Burns
Robust, persistent advocacy for 4-laning 30
Edith Reiss Pfeffer is as effective an advocate you'll find in Des Moines — and
Washington, D.C. for that matter.
And the lady from Clinton is on the side of all those who live within the ever-expanding U.S. Highway 30 corridor. Pfeffer is the president of, and indeed a force behind, the U.S. Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa, which now consists of a potent mix of eastern and western Iowa businesses and well-placed individuals.
Pfeffer recently joined other community leaders along the U.S. Highway 30 corridor in Iowa at the State Capitol in Des Moines to promote the full four-laning of the federal route through Iowa.
Just days earlier Pfeffer made the case in a speech to the Iowa Department of Transportation.
" Normally, the impact of highway expansion is limited to the region surrounding the road," Pfeffer said. "However, funding the continued four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 30 would have a marked impact on almost every family in America because of Iowa's important role in feeding the country through our agricultural products, including corn, soybeans, pork and eggs."
In early March, Pfeffer was in Washington, D.C. lobbying for U.S. 30. She pressed for funding this year in Clinton, Benton County, the Tama area and Mt. Vernon/Lisbon — all of which will move four-laning along in other parts of the state. Specifically, the Coalition is advocating as its top new priority the Carroll-to-Glidden section.
" Finally, we ask that you begin environmental studies for additional projects in eastern and western Iowa so that we may begin to close these gaps when and if money becomes available," Pfeffer told the DOT.
Same message to the governor.
More immediately, we can expect to see some pavement improvements this season between Boone and Ames on U.S. 30, where the conditions have been downright awful.
One of the Coalition's strongest arguments — and it is fully accepted by the governor — is that a four-laned 30 will relieve congestion on Interstate 80. In fact, the development of 30 would be such a major boost to the economy of the full state — and involve Iowa's second largest city, Cedar Rapids, and ninth-largest city, Ames — that former Gov. Chet Culver should have directed all of the I-Jobs money toward full four-laning of the 331-mile route rather than dispensing dollars to a hodge-podge of projects all over the state that collectively failed to brand his program. Four-laning 30 would have been a signature achievement, a shot in the arm for the construction trades and an infrastructure investment that all Iowans could understand. It would have been brilliant.
" The development of this alternative route is vital, as Interstate 80 is at or near capacity at several locations," Pfeffer said.
Federal highway officials are predicting a 50 percent increase in large-truck vehicle miles traveled in Iowa by 2020.
" This increase in large truck traffic will result in worsening pavement conditions, deteriorating bridges and increased traffic congestion," Pfeffer said. "The development of a four-lane U.S. Highway 30 from border to border will provide an alterative route for large truck traffic as well as automobile traffic, and divert traffic from Interstate 80 as it travels from Omaha, Neb., to Chicago."
Gov. Terry Branstad last month appointed a Transportation 2020 Citizens Advisory Commission, which he expects to hold series of public meetings around the state in coming months with an eye toward a recommendation for 2012.
That could include plans for a gas-tax hike or other revenue-generating plan for Iowa's roads. Branstad said a gas tax increase is not in the offing this year because the prevailing economic and political climate.
" The timing is just bad," he said.
He is open to an increase in the future which he sees as a "user fee" for Iowa's roads, and stressed a "pay-as-you-go" approach in which the state avoid bonding or other debt scenarios to fund improvements.
Branstad told coalition members in his State Capitol office that he sees a fully four-laned 30 as relieving the projected congestion on Interstate 80.
" We all know the 80 situation has become very critical," Branstad said. CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.