A handful of state senators tried to divert $25 million more state tax dollars to the Highway 20 expansion project, but 41 of the 50 senators rejected the idea.
Senator Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, argued finishing Highway 20 as a divided, four-lane roadway all across northern Iowa would be an economic benefit.
“It’s time to fund it,” Bertrand said. “Let’s finish it.”
Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the professionals at the Iowa DOT should make road-building decisions, not legislators.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could determine where the roads in the state go?” McCoy asked.
Senator Mark Segebart, a Republican from Vail, said only 32 miles of Highway 20 remains two-lane rather than four-lane today in Iowa.
“It deserves to be finished as soon as possible because we know there’s going to be growth that’s going to just bloom all around that highway,” Segebart said.
McCoy said it’s a “terribly bad idea” for legislators to start deciding which roads get built.
“It would put pork barrel politics back into this legislature,” McCoy said. “…It would forever change the formulas that have been adopted by the DOT Commission.”
Bertrand responded: “Senator McCoy, I understand the danger here, but you’re right. When we build this road, the four lanes will be able to ship a lot of pork, a lot of pork on those four lanes — I promise you — a lot quicker.”
U.S. Route 20 was one of the first coast-to-coast highways in the United States. Advocates of its expansion have been lobbying for the project since the 1960s. The 32-mile stretch from Early to Movile is the only part of Highway 20 in Iowa that remains two-lane.
The debate over spending $25 million more on Highway 20 occurred as the Senate considered a bill that spells out how state gambling taxes are spent on infrastructure projects.