Real estate progress seen on U.S. 20

GALVA – Bulldozers are scheduled to begin scraping away at the ground in Woodbury County next year to prepare the way for another four-lane section of U.S. Highway 20, according to an Iowa Department of Transportation official.

However, efforts to get more money for the highway job have been stymied in the state Capitol, state Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, said Friday.

Members of the U.S 20 Corridor Association received that mixed assessment of the progress on efforts to make the route four lanes wide all across the state when they met Friday at The Meeting Place in Galva.

U.S. Highway 20 extends across northern Iowa between Dubuque and Sioux City. After decades of work, just 44 miles between Early in Sac County and Moville remain to be widened.

The next piece scheduled to be widened is between Moville and Correctionville, which is also in Woodbury County.

Dakin Schultz, a planner for the DOT, said agreements for buying 21 parcels of land have been signed as of May 1. He said those agreements represent 55 percent of the needed land. He added that he expects the land purchases will be completed this year.

Schultz said earthmoving for the new westbound lanes will start next year and be completed in 2015. Those lanes will be paved in 2016.

Earthmoving for the new eastbound lanes is scheduled to start in 2017, according to Schultz. The paving will done in 2018.

No work on the section between Correctionville and Early is scheduled yet.

Completing the four-lane route is estimated to cost $375 million. Attempts to make more money available to finish the job have been unsuccessful, Anderson told the association members.

Although there has been talk about raising the state’s gasoline tax since the Legislature convened in January, Anderson said the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, ruled out such an increase very early in the session.

”I don’t know that we can pass an increase in the gas tax at this time,”Anderson said.

The state’s 21 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax has remained unchanged since 1989.

Anderson said he introduced an amendment that would commit $25 million from the Reinvest in Iowa Infrastructure Fund to the highway project, State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, joined Anderson in voting for the measure, but it was defeated.

The Reinvest in Iowa Infrastructure Fund contains the state’s share of gambling revenue. The money can only be spent on roads, bridges, buildings and other public facilities.

Anderson said he also unsuccessfully introduced an amendment to a catchall measure called the standings bill which would take $100 million of the state budget surplus and spend it on immediate needs identified by the DOT.

In an unrelated matter, Shirley Phillips, the association president, reported that a new U.S. 20 tourism initiative is starting. It will include brochures, a website and a Facebook page featuring interesting things to see and do along the highway.

”I think that will draw some additional travel interest to Highway 20,” she said.