The Iowa portion of the so-called “Avenue of the Saints” is now complete. The final two-mile stretch of four-lane highway was opened near Keokuk on Tuesday. Iowa D-O-T spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher says there are now two-hundred-68 miles of four-lane highway from Interstate-35 in the north — linking up to St. Paul — and stretching down through southeast Iowa on the way to St. Louis.

“The entire project started over 20 years ago,” Gray-Fisher says. “It is finally completed.” Minnesota’s portion of the Avenue of the Saints is Interstate-35 from St. Paul to the Iowa border. Missouri’s portion of the route is slated for completion in 2008.

Gray-Fisher says the four-lane route from St. Louis to St. Paul will help both commerce and people flow more quickly and more safely between the two metropolitan centers at the end of the route.

The Iowa D-O-T is holding a “Great Saints Weekend Adventure” the weekend of June 16th, 17th, and 18th. Gray-Fisher says there’ll be all sorts of activities in the Iowa cities along the Avenue of the Saints corridor, like bake sales, city-wide garage sales, car races and there’ll be discounts for shopping and overnight accommodations.

The D-O-T has created a special website — “All of the different events along the corridor are posted there, as well as the e-coupons, so you’ll want to take advantage of those discounts,” Gray-Fisher says. She doesn’t have the final figure on how much it cost to construct the Iowa portion of the Avenue of the Saints.

The Avenue of the Saints was the brainchild of Mount Pleasant businessman Ernest Hayes and it was pushed by politicians like former Governor Terry Branstad, Senator Charles Grassley, former Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt and Governor Tom Vilsack, who was Mount Pleasant’s Mayor at the time.

The Iowa section of the Avenue of the Saints is officially designated as State Highway 27 and includes portions of U.S. Highway 218, I-380, U.S. Highway 18 and Interstate-35. It runs on the outskirts of cities like Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Charles City, Iowa City, Keokuk, Mason City, Mount Pleasant, Waterloo and Waverly.

Related web sites:
Info on Avenue of the Saints