State Department of Transportation and Economic Development officials were in western Iowa Thursday afternoon for the dedication of a revamped rest area and Iowa Welcome Center. The project on eastbound I-80 near Underwood cost $2.3 million. Dena Gray-Fisher, with the DOT, says the original rest area was built in 1971.
The old building had only eight rest room facilities. "Today, there’s an estimated 350,000 people that visit that particular rest area each year," Gray-Fisher said. The new building covers 5,000 square feet and has 28 rest room facilities. It’s one of a dozen of it’s kind in the state.
"Iowa has 40 full-service rest areas and this is the 12th one that has been modernized with the new accommodations for traveler’s today, like internet access and wi-fi service," Gray-Fisher said. The rest area, which includes artwork honoring the Loess Hills, is often the first stop in the state for eastbound travelers.
"It’s a great and lasting impression for people that are visiting Iowa and it may be the only impression of the state as they travel through," Gray-Fisher said. The Underwood Rest Area’s Welcome Center offers travelers tourist information, specifically highlighting spots in western Iowa.