ROCKWELL CITY - Some quick snipping with an over-sized pair of scissors Wednesday afternoon marked the formal debut of 18 more miles of four-lane U.S. Highway 20 in northern Iowa.
As soon as the red ribbon was cut at an event near the route's junction with Iowa Highway 4, the people who braved stiff winds and temperatures in the 20 degree range scurried back to their vehicles to make one of the first trips over the new highway.
The group of about 50 people only went as far as Rockwell City and the warmth of its community center, but the new highway they celebrated links Iowa Highway 4 and Moorland in Webster County.
U.S. 20 event
''It's exciting to take another step toward U.S. 20 being four lanes all across the state,'' said Darwin Bishop, a districtt construction engineer for the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Truckers are among those who are most excited about having more miles of four-lane highway.
''The trucking industry welcomes every section of four-lane with open arms,'' said George Crouse, the owner of Crouse Transportation Co.
U.S. 20 Association president Shirley Phillips, center, shares a laugh with Webster County Supervisor Bob Singer, right, as the two cut the ribbon to open an 18-mile section of new four- lane U.S. Highway 20 near Rockwell City. The completed section is between Manson and Rockwell City.
Cars park on U.S. Highway 20 near Iowa Highway 4 north of Rockwell City Wednesday afternoon while waiting for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to begin opening the new section of expressway. Those in attendance became some of the first to “officially” drive on the highway. For more photos, see cu.messengernews.net
Tom Anderson, a local manager for Keim TS, said driving on a four-lane highway is safer and provides better fuel economy for truckers.
''Putting all the big trucks on a four-lane highway is a lot safer and a lot more productive,'' he said.
State Rep. David Tjepkes, R-Gowrie, said the wider highway is important for commerce. He said that within 30 miles of U.S. Highway 20 all across northern Iowa there are dozens of ethanol plants that collectively produce more than 1 billion gallons of fuel annually. Tjepkes said the corn those plants need is transported by truck.
Other speakers at the Rockwell City Community Center reflected on how much had been accomplished to expand the highway in the years leading up to Wednesday's ceremony.
That work was a joint effort, according Webster County Supervisor Bob Singer, who is also the first vice president of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association. The effort, he said, involved local groups, the state Department of Transportation and the federal government.
Singer said the state Department of Transportation ''has been magnificent in supporting us in the last 10 years.''
State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, said bipartisanship in the state Legislature and the constant lobbying of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association produced the new section of four-lane highway.
''Your presence has literally made all the difference in the world to get this completed,'' Beall told the assembled members of the highway group.
He said he's pleased that Gov.-elect Terry Branstad has decided to retain Nancy Richardson as director of the Department of Transportation, at least through the 2011 legislative session. He described Richardson as a ''stalwart supporter'' of U.S. Highway 20.
With the new segment open, about 75 miles between Iowa Highway 4 and Moville in Woodbury County are all that remain to be widened in order to create a four-lane route between Dubuque and Sioux City.
Earthmoving to widen another section is underway. Bishop reported that the four-lane route will be extended to Sac County Road N14 by the end of 2012. It will be extended to U.S. Highway 71 in Sac County by the end of 2013, he added.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com