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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Bypass moratorium is short sighted

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Iowa Department of Transportation Director Mark Wandro, in a copyright interview with the Des Moines Register, tells Iowans that new four-lane highways will go through towns instead of bypassing them. Wandro, in a remarkably frank manner, commented that "We don't have enough money to take care of the system that we have, and neither do the cities or counties. From a planning perspective, we can't afford to build the perfect road."

A+ for honesty, F for vision.

Wandro says expressways can be built through some Iowa cities safely and without inconveniencing motorists, saving millions of dollars.

It is generally accepted that bypasses ease traffic congestion, reduce travel time, result in fewer accidents and lower vehicle operating costs. The downside is that bypasses are among the most expensive projects undertaken by the IDOT.

An 11-mile U.S. Highway 34 route around Fairfield approved last month will cost $56 million, a 10-mile bypass planned around Sheldon on U.S. Highway 60 in northwest Iowa has a price tag of $44 million, and the Ottumwa bypass, about nine miles long on U.S. Highways 34 and 63 will cost about $68 million.

Bypass projects that have already been approved, including the Le Mars Highway 60 bypass, will be built. Approved projects include loops around towns on U.S. Highway 151 in northeast Iowa, Iowa Highway 60 in northwest Iowa, the Burlington-to-Des Moines expressway, and the Avenue of the Saints uncompleted segment in southeast Iowa.

The new policy will primarily apply to future construction on U.S. Highway 20 between Fort Dodge and Sioux City and on U.S. 30 across Iowa.

Imagine if the Hwy 60/75 bypass had not already been approved around Le Mars. We already know how much traffic comes through town on the four lane highway we have presently. Imagine finding a way to carve out a median in the present road, increasing the speed limit and decreasing the number of stoplights. If we are trying to keep traffic flowing through town, this is what would need to be done.

Imagine the nightmare this would be for residents. Frustrated residents would more than likely make ill-advised, rushed decisions to get across or onto the highway. You already know what it's like when a train divides traffic in town, imagine having four or five train-type delays each and every day on Highway 75. Traffic snarls and accidents would become commonplace.

With all the talk about Iowa needing to become a value added agriculture leader, this policy shows that our state will talk the talk but won't walk the walk. If you plan on adding more manufacturing plants to add value to Iowa's abundant crops and livestock, you will need to have good roads. Unless every new plant will be located on a rail line, semi-tractor trailers will be frequent callers. Semis are the engine of our economy, moving the majority of goods.

Finding ways to get products to and from plants quickly and safely benefits us all. Creating more congestion and accidents is not the way to grow our economy.