Our Opinion: An important anniversary

Thursday, July 13, 2006

On June 29, 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, ushering in the era of the interstate highway system.

In the 50 years since that time, a network of fast and safe, divided, limited-access highways have changed how Americans travel and transport goods.

Towns along the interstate have prospered, with some people claiming an economic impact extending as much as 50 miles from an interstate highway.

Cherokee County is outside of that 50 mile range. Interstate 90 is not much more than that from the northern edge of Cherokee County, but the 50 mile effect generally referred to is probably a bit of a stretch anyway. Interstate 90 cannot be regarded as particularly beneficial locally and certainly Interstate 80 cannot.

If Highway 20, became a four-lane, limited-access highway, that impact would be felt in Cherokee County and counties neighboring Cherokee County to the east, to the west and, of course, to the south. Representatives of such facilities as the Hy-Vee Distribution Center in Cherokee, Tyson Foods in Cherokee and Well's Blue Bunny in Le Mars have urged completion of the Highway 20 project as important for those facilities, although neither Cherokee nor Le Mars are on Highway 20.

The obvious economic advantages of another major transportation corridor through Iowa are not obvious to most Iowans. Most state legislators want to see evidence of traffic justifying a four-lane, highway before finishing the last section of this corridor.

If that attitude had prevailed 50 years ago, we would not have an Interstate Highway system. If that attitude prevailed 100 years ago, we would have nothing but dirt roads to travel on.