Federal funding is needed to jump-start environmental work on the US61 corridor, between Burlington and Muscatine, Iowa. Project development and engineering design is next, followed by right-of-way acquisition and construction. Construction on the US61 four lane bypass of Ft. Madison is ongoing. Completion of this work will link Iowa with the southern tier of states along US61 south to the Gulf of Mexico. Completion of the US61 work in Des Moines and Louisa counties will link Iowa north, through the Twin Cities and along Lake Superior - to Ontario, Canada.
The state and interstate highway systems account for only about 8 percent of Iowa’s road mileage, but they carry 60 plus percent of the overall vehicle traffic. The condition of our roads and the safety, mobility and quality of life in the communities served by Iowa US61 in particular, are at stake. The states of Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin, who share the Mississippi River with eastern Iowa, are working on highway projects that will connect to Iowa US61. Federal funding is still needed to jump-start work on the remaining US61 corridor in Iowa, one of the most dangerous highways in Iowa with accident rates four times the state average.
The Federal Highway Trust Fund or HTF, which was devised in 1956, is funded largely by the federal gas tax. The demand to build and maintain infrastructure is now greater than the amount in the HTF, money meant for road, bridge, highway and transit projects. Diminishing revenues will have to go farther. Significant reforms to control highway spending, will limit spending to high priority projects.
Congress is debating how to “fund or cut” federal highway and transit spending to help fill budget gaps. And the Iowa Legislature is expected to debate proposals in 2012 to raise state taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. Our legislative leaders in WDC and in Des Moines need to hear why US61 is a high priority project.