January 24, 2017

What are the most important four words President Donald J. Trump could say for rural Iowa?

“Four lane Highway 30.”

U.S. Highway 30 is the longest road in the state, running a distance of 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.

It also happens to be, well, Trump country.

Of the 12 counties, 10 went for Trump, some with landslide weight, in the general election: Benton, 59 percent; Boone, 53 percent; Carroll, 63 percent; Cedar, 56 percent; Clinton (49 to 44 percent for Trump); Crawford, 67 percent; Greene, 59 percent; Harrison, 66 percent; Marshall, 51 percent; and Tama, 57 percent.

Hillary Clinton carried Story, home to Iowa State University, and Linn County, home to the state’s second-largest city, Cedar Rapids. By Iowa standards, urban centers (which already benefit from four-laned sections of Highway 30).

Mr. Trump, those “forgotten” men and women you spoke of during the inauguration speech did not forget to vote for you in vast stretches of the Highway 30 corridor in rural Iowa. Can’t payback sometimes mean build up — as in roads, good ones?

Now rural Iowa needs you, Mr. Trump, and your unconventional approach, the message of productivity before protocol, to work with Congress on an infrastructure bill, and go a step further in calling the Iowa Department of Transportation and asking — just like you did with Carrier and the car companies — the bureaucrats to boost rural Iowa with spending on desperately needed, and census-backed, four-laning of all of Highway 30 in our state.

The population of these 12 counties increased over 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2010, and this growth trend is continuing.

A chief concern of the Highway 30 Coalition is that state transportation officials will seek to six-lane Interstate 80 throughout Iowa, foreclosing opportunities for development of Highway 30 as a relief route for 80 that would also lift the economies of Cedar Rapids, which has heavy grain traffic, as well as vast swaths of rural Iowa.

Remember that giant sucking sound Ross Perot spoke of? Well, that’s what you’ll hear with the transfer of economic opportunity from rural to urban Iowa if a super corridor from the Quad Cities to Iowa City to Des Moines is developed with six or eight lanes on I-80, while we are left with two lanes and no prospect for the economic-development growth that would come with four.

The Des Moines Register reports of record-breaking home construction in our capital city in 2016. Western Iowans who take Highway 141 or I-80 into Des Moines are greeted at its outer reaches by dramatic sprawl in housing divisions, growing as fast on dandelions, in Grimes and Johnston and Waukee. As a rural Iowan, when I see those homes, or the ground being groomed for them, I know what this means: more young people from our small towns living in them, after they leave us.

Gov. Terry Branstad says “philosophically” it makes sense to four-lane more of U.S. Highway 30 in Iowa before expanding Interstate 80 into six or eight lanes across the state.

He’ll be headed to China to work for you.

Please work with us in rural Iowa, Mr. Trump. Help us with a new Corridor or Commerce. Connect us to the world on a four-lane highway, and trust us, we won’t let them forget what Iowa hard work and production means.