Iowa DOT

Joyce Russell/IPR

The state of Iowa will receive a multi-million dollar windfall as part of a $15 billion  settlement with German carmaker Volkswagen over its emissions cheating scandal.   

Iowa’s $21 million share must be spent on projects to reduce toxic emissions into the Iowa environment.  

A federal judge approved the settlement between Volkswagen and state and federal governments last year.  

The carmaker sold nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles with model years 2009 to 2016 equipped with so-called defeat devices to get around emissions standards.  

Charity Nebbe/IPR

Wintry weather brings the risk of blowing and drifting snow to Iowa's roads.

A partnership between the Iowa Department of Transportation and farmland owners to reduce that risk is raising its public profile this year.

For about 20 years, standing corn has helped create a barrier to contain the blowing and drifting snow, preventing it from reaching the highways where it can create slippery surfaces and dangerous driving conditions. Craig Bargfrede, winter operations administrator for the DOT, says it works just as well as temporary snow fences and is a lot cheaper.

Flickr / thenicole

All 902 plow trucks owned by the Iowa Department of Transportation now equipped with a new GPS system. It allows vehicles to gather all sorts of data, which the DOT will use for clearing Iowa’s roadways of snow and ice more efficiently. 

Craig Bargfrede heads DOT winter operations. This new system costs about $850,000, but Bargfrede says the upgrade will pay for itself in time and money savings. 

Flickr / Alan Light

This Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the most heavily-traveled since 2005.  

AAA estimates 38 million people across the county will travel at least 50 miles.

Gail Weinholzer of the Iowa AAA says gas prices in the state are roughly 40 cents lower than they were a year ago, and historically there has been a strong correlation between low gas prices and the number of drivers.

MorphoTrust USA

Iowa is the first state to test out mobile driver’s licenses. The Iowa Department of Transportation has rolled out a pilot program that allows users to pull up the ID on their smartphones.

Up to 100 Iowa DOT employees are testing out the new software, produced by MorphoTrust USA. The biometrics and identity technology company is headquartered in Billerica, MA. 

At the moment, the digital licenses are only compatible with newer iPhones. Eventually the application will be formatted for other smartphones.

Ildar Sagdejev / Wikimedia Commons

Wallace Winkie taught generations of Belle Plaine teenagers how to drive. Now, his wife, Bev Winkie, has collected their stories in the book "Park It!" How much has changed in driving education since Winkie's heyday in the 50s?

Larry Johnson, coordinator for the Des Moines Public Schools' driving education, says one answer is the amount of time they're trained. Where driving education used to be taught over several months, now, some students can finish their instruction in as little as 4 weeks. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Driverless cars could hit the roads in Johnson County within the next few years. 

epSos .de / flickr

Decades ago, researchers dreamed about cars that could park themselves and avoid accidents. And now, it’s no longer science fiction.

Today on River to River, a look at the latest transportation-related news. We look at modern advances to our transportation systems, including self-driving cars, an update on the controversy surrounding traffic cameras in Iowa, the effects of cannabis on a driver, the hazards of all-terrain vehicles, and efforts by the Iowa DNR to crack down on drinking while driving on the water.

NASA's Juno spacecraft passed within about 350 miles of Earth's surface this week, before slingshotting off into space on a historic exploration of Jupiter.

On this news buzz version of River to River, hear from a University of Iowa research engineer about Juno, and from the president of the University of Iowa Amateur Radio Club about why they waved to Juno electronically, as it whizzed by.

That, and many other items in our news worth buzzing about.

Monster Machinery

Sep 26, 2013
IPR's Amy Mayer

The Iowa Department of Transportation is reporting 79 crashes and 5 fatalities involving farm equipment in 2013. Safety officials say drivers need to be alert especially at dusk and dawn when these huge machines tend to be more numerous. They also say farmers need to share responsibility by making sure motorists know when they're about to turn or make a sudden stop. Farmers are asked not to wave motorists by them, but instead pull off to the side of the road if possible.

Jimmy Emerson / jimmywayne / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer gets the latest on news from around Iowa.  MidAmerican Energy gives an update on the power outage which left almost 40,000 Des Moines-area residents in the dark. IPR's Joyce Russell discusses changes to the problematic Toledo Juvenile Home.  The DNR has a new report which looks at drought conditions in Iowa.  Also, Dubuque native Brooks Wheelan joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

The Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation was in the hot seat at the statehouse.   Critics turned out to rally against the DOT’s recent policy decision denying  driver’s licenses  for young undocumented immigrants in Iowa.   That’s even though the Obama administration recently approved work permits for immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children years ago.