March 30, 2017
The potential of a developing trillion-dollar Trump administration infrastructure-investment package, and how that could boost Iowa highways, emerged Wednesday in several sessions with state leaders during Highway 30 Day at the Capitol in Des Moines.
“That’s something President Trump ran on,” Gov. Terry Bransad said. “I hope we can get bipartisan support.”
Added Branstad, “Maybe we’ll have an opportunity to get some money there.”
Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, his party’s leader in the Iowa House and a legislator who lives in a city along Highway 30, expressed similar sentiments in a separate meeting.
“I hope the president is committed to his comments about infrastructure,” Smith said.
The U.S. 30 Coalition of Iowa brought a statewide group to Capitol with elected officials and business leaders coming from Carroll, Jefferson, Clinton, Missouri Valley, the Cedar Rapids area, DeWitt and Glidden.
The mission: make the case for the full four-laning of Highway 30 across Iowa — the upgrading of 156.7 miles of two-lane federal roadway.
Former Carroll Mayor and local businessman Adam Schweers led the meetings as chairman of the statewide Highway 30 advocacy group.
“I just don’t want the landscape of Iowa to start looking like Nebraska” with heavy population on the eastern side and roams of little-populated areas in the rest of the state, Schweers said.
Coalition leaders aren’t pinning their hopes for Highway 30 exclusively on a potent Trump injection of funds from Washington.
Decisions at the state level are crucial, too, said coalition vice chairman Tom Determann of Clinton.
U.S. Highway 30 is the longest road in the state, running 331 miles from the Mississippi to Missouri River.
The U.S. 30 corridor spans 12 counties and 39 cities.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, over 551,000 people live in the 12 counties along the U.S. 30 corridor; representing nearly 20 percent of Iowa’s population. The population of those 12 counties increased over 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2010 — and this growth trend is continuing.
Mike Kirchhoff, president and CEO of the Clinton Regional Development Corporation, noted that 84 percent of Highway 30 between Boone and Chicago is four-laned. It’s fiscally smart to four-lane the rest rather than pour money in six-laning Interstate 80 in eastern Iowa, he said.
State Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, agreed, saying it makes sense to get Highway 30 four-laned rather than green-lighting costly six-laning projects.
“We need to support communities across the state,” Hogg said.
Kirchhoff also cast transportation priorities in rural-urban terms, saying that much the Highway 30 corridor in Iowa is rural and tied to agriculture and manufacturing. Marooning rural Iowans on two-lane highways while expanding the interstates further disadvantages small-town Iowa, he said.
“It risks the potential of creating a permanent economic underclass,” Kirchhoff said.
Missouri Valley City Administrator Rita Miller said flooding issues in her city as well as the narrow stretch of Highway 30 that goes straight through the downtown combine for problems that can be solved with a bypass of the Harrison County city and four-laning of Highway 30 in the region.
“We think it’s very important that we have four-lane across the state,” she said.