Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds
Des Moines

The U.S. Highway 30 corridor in Iowa saw a 5.5 percent increase in population over the last decade, buoying the case for the full four-laning of the 331-mile route in the state.

A statewide advocacy group for the federal route, The U.S. 30 Coalition of Iowa, has identified the 7-mile stretch from Carroll to Glidden as a priority for four-laning.

With an average daily traffic count of 6,400 to 7,900 the Carroll-to-Glidden corridor is the busiest two-lane section of U.S. 30 in the state - and is getting much discussion within the 30 Coalition.

Census figures on population growth showed that only the Interstate 80 corridor - with 14.5 percent population growth between 2000 and 2010 - outpaced U.S. 30 among major highways in Iowa.

Carroll-area elected officials and economic-development advocates pressed this case to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders Wednesday during Highway 30 Day the Capitol.

"We feel that this is real important for safety and an economic factor," said Edith Reiss Pfeffer of Clinton, longtime president of the Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa.

Reynolds said she understood the importance of the four-laning on a variety of fronts, chiefly safety, as a fully four-laned 30 would serve as an alternative statewide route to I-80.

"It takes the pressure off 80," Reynolds said, noting that in eastern Iowa, traffic is heavy on that nation-crossing interstate.

"I mean, 80's just scary," Reynolds said.

Pfeffer said several sections of work in central and eastern Iowa are in the pipeline for Highway 30. She also pitched Reynolds on the value of the Carroll-to-Glidden section.

"Carroll and Glidden, they want us to start that," Pfeffer said.

There is no official timetable for that project at the DOT.

The conversation with Reynolds in the State Capitol delved into long-term funding and maintenance issues for Iowa roads and highways.

Reynolds said the state must review the roads system to make sure all secondary routes that are currently being maintaining deserve to remain on the map. She also sees a need to begin collecting revenue in different ways as more fuel efficient and electric cars are hitting the roads.

Many of the Highway 30 advocates supported a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax - which advocates cast as a user-fee. Gov. Terry Branstad refers to it as a user fee as well.

The money wouldn't go straight to Highway 30 but would increase its chances of moving up the list of projects. It will take a mix of federal and state action and funding for 30 four-laning to occur.

Reynolds said the governor is open to signing a gas-tax increase, something that hasn't happened since 1989. But the governor wants to tie any such increase to property-tax reform, a centerpiece of which is a 20 percent reduction in commercial-property taxes. Such linkage will embolden legislators to support a gas-tax increase, Reynolds said.

"This is not an easy thing for these legislators, it's just not," Reynolds said.

In late 2011, members of the Governor's Transportation 2020 Citizen Advisory Commission recommended, among other things, an 8- to 10-cent per-gallon increase in the gas tax. The state's gas tax is now 21 cents on unleaded, 19 cents for ethanol blends, and 22.5 cents for diesel. State officials estimate a $2 billion backlog in road and bridge work and an annual shortfall of about $220 million. At a recent Senate Transportation Committee hearing, legislators talked with county officials about the prospects of having to embargo roads.

Carroll County Supervisor Marty Danzer, in the meeting with Reynolds this week, said he's been advocating for improving funding for Iowa's roads for a decade. The time to act with a gas-tax increase is now, he said.

"The longer we kick this can, the worse it's going to get," Danzer said.

Carroll Mayor Adam Schweers spent much of Wednesday at the Capitol making the case for U.S. Highway 30.

"The 4 lane from Carroll to Glidden is a critical piece to the long-term expansion of the whole corridor in western Iowa and will play an important role in Carroll's economic development for years to come," Schweers said. "The Highway 30 Coalition has done a fantastic job providing the Department of Transportation and legislators with the data to support expansion while providing an organized and appreciated presence at the Capitol every year."

Carroll Area Development Corp. executive director Jim Gossett, Carroll City Manager Gerald Clausen, Supervisor Gene Meiners and Region 12 Council of Governments planner Chris Whitaker, joined the U.S. 30 promotion effort in Des Moines.

The coalition met with House and Senate leadership and several rank-and-file legislators.

One Democratic leader suggested his party had the votes to pass a gas-tax increase, while a Republican leader indicated that the net result must be a reduction in tax burden for Iowans.