Final U.S. 20 stretch lacks funds

SIOUX CITY – Advocates of completing U.S. Highway 20 as a four-lane route all across northern Iowa are concerned about two figures: 32 miles and $375 million.

The 32 miles is the approximate distance between Correctionville in Woodbury County and Early in Sac County. That’s the last section of the proposed four-lane route for which no construction work is planned.

The $375 million is the estimated cost of making the route four lanes wide between those communities.

Leaders of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association have again called for a gasoline tax hike to generate the needed money to finish the project and others across the state.

”You’ve got to plug more money into the DOT for all of Iowa, not just our project,” Webster County Supervisor Bob Singer, the association’s first vice president, said during the group’s meeting Friday at the Sioux City Public Museum. He was referring to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The association is in favor of raising the state’s 21 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax by 10 cents. The tax has remained the same since 1989.

Singer said he’s heard lawmakers ”squawking” about trying to keep the price of gasoline down, but added that he hasn’t heard them making the same efforts to keep the price of food down.

”I frankly do not understand what the fear is of increasing the gas tax over a period of time,” he said.

Association member Daryl Watts, of Eagle Grove, suggested learning how all the candidates in the 2014 races for governor and the Legislature stand on the gasoline tax, starting with state Rep. Tyler Olson, of Cedar Rapids, who just entered the race for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Singer said political donors should consider withholding money from candidates based on their gasoline tax stance.

While nothing is in the works for the stretch between Correctionville and Early, there will be some four-lane construction over the next few years in Woodbury County.

Tony Lazarowicz, a district engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said earthmoving for the new westbound lanes between Moville and Correctionville will begin next year. Those lanes are scheduled to be paved in 2016.

Lazarowicz said that in 2015 U.S. Highway 20 in Correctionville will be widened to five lanes. That configuration will provide two lanes of traffic in each direction, plus a center turning lane.

Then, in 2017, earthmoving for new eastbound lanes between Moville and Correctionville will be done, according to the engineer. He said those lanes will be paved in 2018.

Lazarowicz said designs for the four-lane route between Correctionville and Holstein in Ida County are being prepared even though no construction is planned there.

U.S. Highway 20 runs between Dubuque and Sioux City. The effort to widen it to four lanes all across the state began about 50 years ago.