Ames, IA— Severe winter weather's freeze/thaw damage to roads, passage of TIME-21 state highway funding, opening of the Underwood Rest Area and Welcome Center, release of a passenger rail study, tornadoes and floods, completion of the Des Moines to Burlington corridor, less highway travel, and lower fatalities rank top among Iowa transportation stories for 2008, according to the Iowa Department of Department (DOT).
The department notes that 2008 started off with a barrage of winter storms, including the notorious freeze/thaw conditions that caused Iowa's roadways to crack and break. Spring meant lots of pothole filling and roadway patching.
There were several bright spots in 2008 for Iowa's highway system, including passage of the TIME-21 legislation, which was the first step in providing needed additional state funding over the next few years to make necessary investments in Iowa's roads and bridges.
A study conducted by Amtrak at the request of the Iowa DOT concerning the feasibility of passenger rail service from the Quad Cities to Iowa City on a route originating in Chicago was released in April at a news conference in Iowa City. The study suggests that investments in expanded passenger rail service in Iowa would help diversify mobility options and lessen dependence on the highway system.
In May, the Iowa DOT and Department of Economic Development dedicated the newly constructed Underwood Rest Area and Welcome Center, located on Interstate 80 in Pottawattamie County. The facility's design honors the unique geography of western Iowa known as the Loess Hills.
Spring and summer in Iowa were marked by devastating tornadoes and floods. Iowa DOT crews were helping communities in northern Iowa clean up from the tornadoes when heavy rains began. For weeks, DOT personnel were protecting the safety of Iowans by barricading flooding roads and bridges, then cleaning up and restoring travel. The damage to Iowa's transportation system — its roads and bridges, railroads, trails, transit agencies, and barge facilities — were unimaginable. Months later, some systems are still struggling to recover.
In November, the Des Moines to Burlington highway corridor was completed and dedicated at a ceremony in Fairfield. The corridor represented the conclusion of a 12-year public investment of nearly $1.8 billion in six high-priority highway corridors in the state. In total, 701 miles of four-lane roadway were constructed, including the Avenue of the Saints, Des Moines to Burlington corridor, Iowa 330 from Des Moines to Marshalltown, Iowa 5 from Des Moines to Knoxville, Iowa 60 from Sioux City to the Minnesota state line, and U.S. 151 from Cedar Rapids to Dubuque.
High fuel prices earlier in 2008 and an economic downtown in the later months put the brakes on travel last year. Less travel may have also been a contributing factor in fewer fatalities.