Iowa DOT News Release

Year in review: Iowa transportation newsmakers

Posted on: December 31, 2009

AMES, Iowa – Dec. 31, 2009 – Looking back at 2009, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) found that transportation dominated or played a role in many news stories this year, from expanding passenger rail service to fewer roadway fatalities to economic recovery to the latest record-breaking winter storm.

In the fast-approaching new year, transportation will undoubtedly continue to remain important to Iowans because it is such an integral part of our lives. We depend on it to get us where we need to go, and it has a dramatic impact on our state’s economy and quality of life.

Here are just a few of the 2009 transportation highlights.

Expanded passenger rail

  • During the 2009 legislative session, $3 million was authorized for capital improvements and related studies for expanding passenger rail service in Iowa, which was the first modern-day passenger rail appropriation.
  • Two landmark memorandums of understanding were signed to help expand passenger rail service: (1) Governor Culver and other Midwest governors agreed to work together as a region to expand passenger rail services in a coordinated manner; and (2) Governor Culver and Illinois Governor Quinn agreed to work together to develop services on the Chicago to Iowa City corridor.
  • Iowa submitted five applications, totaling $441 million, to the Federal Railroad Administration for funding consideration under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program and continues to wait for word on the success of those applications.

Federal stimulus funding

  • In February, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009.
  • Iowa received more than $400 million in transportation funding through the Recovery Act for airport improvements, bus replacements, road and bridge projects, freight rail projects, and multi-use trails.
  • Iowa was the third state in the country to meet the initial congressionally mandated requirement for obligating Recovery Act highway funding.
  • According to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Iowa has continued to rank among the top five states for the speed in which Recovery Act projects have been put out to bid, contracts have been issued, and work has gotten underway or been completed.

2009 roadway fatalities

  • As of Dec. 30, 371 people have died on Iowa roadways this year. The lowest number of fatalities recorded since World War II was in 2004, when 388 men, women and children lost their lives on our highways. This year’s total is in line to be at that level or possibly even lower.
  • Of those who lost their lives on Iowa highways in 2009, approximately 20 percent died in crashes where the driver was impaired with drugs or alcohol. The 10-year average for deaths caused by impaired drivers is near 25 percent, with this year being the second consecutive year at approximately 20 percent.
  • Fewer large commercial vehicles were involved in fatal crashes in 2009. Preliminary statistics show fatal crashes with large commercial vehicles could be down as much as 20 percent for the year compared to the 10-year average.
  • Relatively new roadway safety features, such as high-tension cable median barrier systems that keep errant vehicles on their side of the roadway rather than crossing over the median, paved shoulders, and shoulder and centerline rumble strips all played a part this year in reducing fatalities.

(Contact for highway fatality statistics: Scott Falb at 515-237-3154 or

Flood recovery

  • Transportation investments continued to help Iowa recover from the 2008 floods.
  • Iowa received approximately $25 million in federal highway emergency relief funding for repair of state, municipal and county roads.
  • A federal grant and I-JOBS funding helped with reconstruction of two railroad bridges that collapsed during the flooding, one in Waterloo and the other in Cedar Rapids.

Record year of road construction

  • Recovery Act funding helped Iowa set a new record – $1.03 billion – in state and local construction and maintenance projects let by the Iowa DOT.
  • The Iowa DOT rehabilitated 841 miles of the state’s Primary Highway System; completed grading of 30 miles of expanded roadways; and replaced or rehabilitated multiple bridges.


  • I-JOBS, the Culver/Judge Administration’s $830 million, three-year job creation, economic recovery and flood recovery program that received legislative approval, authorized $105 million for investments in state-maintained bridges, city and county roads, passenger and freight rail systems, recreational trails, general aviation airports, and public transit systems.

Record-breaking winter storm

  • Iowa DOT maintenance crews battled several winter storms during 2009, plowing approximately 24,500 lane miles of state roadway during each event, which is nearly equivalent to a trip around the earth (circumference 24,859.73 miles).
  • Most recently, road crews fought a strong storm that set several weather records, burying some residents in almost 2 feet of snow, causing up to 15-foot drifts and resulting in record localized December snowfall amounts.
  • As a result of the latest December storm, a majority of county roadways in parts of western Iowa became impassable, leading to the issuance of an emergency proclamation and deployment of Iowa DOT resources to assist with clearing local roads.   


Iowa highway in the evening