Jun 13

The end of the Marathon to Marathon

July 23, 2009: Welcome sign for Marathon at the south end of former IA 390.

The Marathon to Marathon has become the latest casualty of an aging and depopulating rural Iowa. The last race was last weekend.

While it may sound dramatic to describe the end of a 22-year event that way, it is none the less true. Its demise is summed up in this quote in the Sioux City Journal* article:

“When we all started, we were all in our 40s and low 50s, and now we are in our mid-60s, 70s and I had a committee of 15 to 16 people and now we are down to 6 to 8. We had young families with kids so it wasn’t any problem getting help, but families moved away … It’s a small town to start with, we just have run out of volunteers to be real honest with you.”

“We have run out of volunteers.” That is the scariest sentence one can say or read when it comes to community cohesiveness and social infrastructure. (Why yes, I am finally getting around to reading Bowling Alone, but I was waving a flag on this more than a decade ago.)

As much as they hate to admit it, the Baby Boomers are getting old. The 40-somethings of the mid-1990s are now the 60-somethings of the late 2010s, and a sufficient replacement cohort isn’t there. And I do mean literally not there; Laurens-Marathon High School just graduated its last class because of declining enrollment.

There’s any number of events/groups/what-have-you across Iowa — across rural America — that simply stopped for lack of new blood. (I think of the Amity Ice Cream Social, although it’s come back in a slightly different form.) Now, the Marathon to Marathon is one of them.

*I needed to blog about this ASAP, because the SCJ and all the Lee papers are getting a redesign “to emphasize mobile platforms” Wednesday and the only question is how horrible it will be.

Posted in Iowa Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Jun 12

A significant reduction of Des Moines’ one-ways

Des Moines is out to remake its nearly 65-year-old system of downtown streets, the Register reports. It’s a combination of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and doing the wrong thing for stupid reasons.

One-way streets are the second-worst thing a driver can encounter, behind only roundabouts, which are tools of the devil. (Unfortunately, the devil is very active in Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids as of late.) Getting rid of one-ways on streets wide enough for two-way traffic is a positive thing.

The hard part with doing this in Des Moines is that the one-way system dates back to 1953 (see Jason Hancock’s “Highways of Des Moines”) and is baked into the grid. Cedar Rapids, which is also converting one-ways to two-ways, largely doesn’t have this problem. The I-235 downtown exits are based on one-ways. The map doesn’t make clear how the 2nd/3rd and 8th/9th splits south of downtown would be un-unified, or how DART routes would change from the shiny new station at 6th and Cherry. (And then, of course, nothing happens to East 14th/15th without the Iowa DOT’s say-so.) Every major intersection involved will need new stoplights. That may be why the expected completion date is 2030.

But — and there’s always a but — the plan also involves subtracting lanes of traffic, including not just the most active downtown arterials but a big chunk of University Avenue.

To take MLK Parkway — a “southern bypass” of downtown that, compared with the DECADES it was on the city’s wish list, opened the day before yesterday — and yank out one-third of its capacity is nuts. Sacrificing vehicle space for dedicated bike lanes, especially somewhere without the vertical concentration of really big cities, denies the existence of concepts like “winter”, “humidity”, and “traffic demand.”

Findings were presented Thursday after a yearlong case study by Speck and a team of planners from San Francisco.

Well, that explains that.

The money quote comes at the end of the story.

” … If you’re driving and driving is the thing you care about, this would be the down side of the equation of making these extensive and ambitious network changes.”

Because a street system designed for people who have automobiles and commute from houses with yards is so … unsophisticated.

Posted in Iowa Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Jun 10

The most accurate headline of the year

“You can never have too many kolaches”.

It may be a seasonal article, but consider the alternative…


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off
Jun 09

Final IA 17 reroute revealed

At a mid-May meeting, the Iowa DOT presented the newest version of its plan to reroute IA 17 east of Boone. A new road would run north of the Central Iowa Expo (Farm Progress Show) grounds for about ¾ mile then go east a mile. Two options remain for a connecting road to old US 30, one following an old railroad grade and the other somewhat shorter in length.

This will mean the end of state maintenance on a Lincoln Highway segment, both original route (the north-south segment between 200th Street and Jordan) and paved route (the east-west segment paralleling the railroad). Closure of the railroad crossing at R Avenue will block off the ability to travel the 1913 alignment via 205th Street unimpeded.

Posted in Highway Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Jun 08

Wisconsin expanding license plates to seven characters

Instead of phasing out license plates from the same system and same design that has been around since 1986, Wisconsin is adding a seventh character to its license plates as of a few weeks ago. The combination will be three letters followed by four numbers.

When Iowa reset in 1997, all license plates got replaced with a new design and 000AAA character set. Then in 2012, we hit the limit and swapped the letter-number positions. Shortly thereafter, the DOT announced that all the 1997 issues, and then subsequent ones, would be replaced after a decade. (Right now, I think the replacements are somewhere in the N’s or maybe P’s.)

Wisconsin, however, hasn’t replaced anyone’s. It reversed letters to numbers in 2000 (meaning the first run-through lasted 14 years, a hair shorter than Iowa’s), and after another 16½ years hit the limit again. But since a plate issued in, say, 1988 as EKU279 could theoretically be in use today, there wasn’t anywhere to go but wedging in another digit. A little thinking ahead and database checking could have pre-emptively solved this issue, but, oops. Now America’s Dairyland will have the same design for the rest of the century or until the FIBs take over, whichever comes first.

Posted in License Plates | Comments Off
Jun 07

Tama County US 30 construction to begin

Construction on new lanes for US 30 east of Tama will start later this summer, the Marshalltown Times-Republican reports. In the highway program, this project is under the header for grading in fiscal 2018. (The five-year plan itself notes that fiscal year work typically ends up falling in the calendar year, but this looks like an exception.)

As someone who has driven this stretch of 30 a few times already this year, it can’t come soon enough.

(Also, the T-R article formatting appears to italicize all quotes in an article, which looks very weird.)

Posted in Construction | Comments Off
Jun 06

Grand Junction overpass under construction

July 5, 2013: Poles for each county on the Lincoln Highway in Iowa are part of the Lincoln Highway Interpretive Site on the east side of Grand Junction. The US 30 overpass being replaced is west of the park.

After last week’s focus on Grand Junction, a follow-up to an earlier post: US 30 was closed east of Grand Junction in April for replacement of the overpass on the east side of town. This is where present 30 joins/splits from the Lincoln Highway. Blurb: Greene County News Online.

Because old 30 (County Road E53/222nd Street) is also closed, the only way to get to the Lincoln Highway interpretive site is from the east — assuming you can. It’s still on the LHA Conference schedule, so that could be interesting.

Posted in Construction | Comments Off
Jun 05

Replacement of US 63 bridge over Mississippi River begins

Not in Iowa, but related to this website because it involves US 63 and the Mississippi River: Last month, the Minnesota Department of Transportation began construction on a replacement for the US 63 bridge at Red Wing. Story: KARE (warning: autoplay).

Construction is expected to take about 2½ years. When completed, 63 will come from Wisconsin and curve the opposite way to meet US 61, slightly decreasing the mileage in the state.

MNDOT has an information page. The rendering video is embedded below.

Posted in Construction, Highway Miscellaneous | Comments Off
Jun 02

Great Scott!

From California: Man receives ticket after hitting 88 mph in his DeLorean

Absolutely worth it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off
Jun 01

A slight extension of this website’s coverage

Blog post 2000!

With all the Iowa highway information newly available online, there’s plenty of work I can do. I’ve been doing some of that by editing the pages with the most important changes (or obvious corrections). I announced a previous round of that in March.

I’ve also noticed that there are plenty of relevant pictures from my trips that I have never put online. It’s time to fix that, most likely by going through all the pages for revisions and updates.

I think it’s feasible to extend this website’s scope a little too. Now I am going to include post-1969 ends of post-1980 highways when possible. This involves somewhere around 60 new locations, which could change after more study. The batch includes the ends that existed inside towns before highways were truncated at the city limits, five in Benton County alone. I have a good chunk of these already, and more are easily reachable (except for IA 313 inside Melvin five hours away).

Overall, though, the Great Decommissioning of 1980-81 is still out. There are simply too many routes involved.

Pages that have something added to reflect this so far:

  • IA 12′s present signed end, the Riverside Boulevard exit on I-29, was its actual south end in the 1970s. I have also added some information about its one-year extension to the Combination Bridge in the late 1950s while the first parts of I-29 were built.
  • IA 25 now includes photos at the Missouri state line and near Blockton.
  • IA 37′s extension into Irwin, which was not on the 1981 map but apparently wasn’t turned over until 1982, is now mentioned.
  • IA 48′s former south end in Shenandoah has a picture and a map.
  • Pictures of the closest one can get today to the Lincoln Highway’s entrance into Iowa, where the former Lyons-Fulton Bridge connected with Main Street, are on the US 30 and IA 136 pages. I took them, along with the Lincoln Highway “loop” end at the other end of the state, in 2013 but never put them online.
  • A mention, with one non-intersection photo, of IA 139 in Protivin.
  • IA 183′s extensions down US 75 and the Lincoln Highway have more detail.
  • A mention, but no photos, of IA 221 at US 69.
  • IA 225 went into downtown Sully; I don’t know the exact intersection but do have a park photo.
  • IA 229 went into downtown Garwin; I pulled a couple photos from RAGBRAI 2004.
  • Information about IA 370′s quasi-decommissioning in 1980-83 was added.
  • IA 385 ended at old US 34 before the Glenwood four-lane opened in 1974; since the location was the east end of IA 978, I just had to copy the photos.
  • I added a photo of old IA 979 (former IA 1 through West Branch) at IA 38, which was the end of the unsigned route until 1980.

Finally, to clarify and simplify the page for IA 102′s original west end, I removed Jason Hancock’s photos from Pella since 102 did not go into Pella. On the east end, I added photos from May 2003 taken in New Sharon to illustrate the not-quite-decommissioning as well as the legal east end of the highway from 1980 to 1986.

Posted in Highway Miscellaneous, Iowa Miscellaneous, Maps | Comments Off