September 16, 2013

Years after the U.S. Highway 30 Coalition of Iowa was formed, much of the highway it focuses on has been converted to four-lane roads.

But the coalition isn't finished.

Counting planned projects and those currently under construction, about 60 percent of the highway across the state now has four lanes or will within the next few years, said Chris Whitaker, transportation planner with Region 12 Council of Governments. That leaves almost half left to tackle.

"An improved U.S. Highway 30 will provide new opportunities in every community for economic development, quality new jobs, job retention and expansion of existing business, and major new investment by industry," the coalition's website states.

Upgrading U.S. Highway 30 will also reduce congestion on Interstate 80, Whitaker said.

The coalition met Friday in Marshalltown to discuss recent and upcoming events held to encourage further work on the highway.

In April, a "U.S. Highway 30 Day" was held at the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to support additional improvements.

There will be another held there during the 2014 legislative session, Whitaker said.

There will also be a "Transportation Day" held at the Capitol on Jan. 29. Its focus will be on increasing revenue for road and highway improvements.

Much of the traffic problems on U.S. Highway 30 are centered on the road's two-lane sections. One of the coalition's next priorities is a nearby one - it hopes to focus on the stretch between Carroll and Glidden, Whitaker said.

"The traffic congestion there is just awful," he said.

Coalition members will outline that need and several others at an Iowa Transportation Commission meeting Oct. 8 in Mason City, he said.

The longest road in Iowa, U.S. Highway 30 runs about 330 miles between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It runs through 12 counties and 39 cities; in 2000, there were more than 513,000 people living in those counties, according to a 2010 fact sheet from the coalition.

In 2011, daily traffic on U.S. 30's rural segments averaged 5,771 vehicles each day. On the municipal segments of the highway, daily traffic averaged 9,086 vehicles.

On U.S. Highway 30, there were more than 175 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared with the statewide average of 122 crashes, according to the 2010 fact sheet.

The next coalition meeting will be Nov. 15, although the location has not been set.

The coalition's progress has been slow but steady, and Whitaker said he hopes it will continue.

"It's not necessarily a lack of money, but there are a lot of needs across the state for highway improvements," he said. "Trying to prioritize these projects and distribute those funds statewide is a challenge."