Transportation

corn on truck
pixabay

Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent tropical storm could cause shipping delays and damage to infrastructure that is necessary for Iowa’s agricultural exports.

About 60 percent of soybean and corn exports leave the U.S. from the lower Mississippi River. 

Mike Steenhoek is executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. He says prolonged rainfall along the Gulf Coast is delaying some barge unloading and ocean vessel loading.

Steenhoek says the rain is also washing out railroads and putting stress on bridges.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she has called the graphic designer who created the three proposed images for Iowa’s new license plate. Iowa Department of Transportation employee Christina Andersen's work has been mocked and criticized on social media as bland or terrible.

"The severity of the words chosen in these comments ranges from stinging to an absolute gut punch that leaves me short of breath and tears flowing uncontrollably," wrote Andersen on her personal Facebook page last week.

anamika chandel
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

An Iowa City mom is starting a company this summer that she describes as "Uber for kids." 

Bees Knees Drive will be Iowa's first child ride service app. When it launches in the Iowa City area, parents will be able to order transportation for their kids to school or activities.

Founder Anamika Chandel says she got the idea when she spent a few months working as an Uber driver.

"I met a lot of people, a lot of mothers, families, who said they'd like someone like me to drive their kids around," Chandel says. 

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia

Cedar Rapids is appealing a judge’s ruling that the Iowa Department of Transportation can order the city to remove some highway speed cameras.

The city has stopped issuing speeding tickets from cameras on I-380 but is requesting a stay of the order to remove those cameras.

Cedar Rapids spokeswoman Maria Johnson says city attorneys felt the need to act immediately.

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia

Cedar Rapids is considering whether to appeal a ruling by an Iowa judge in a lawsuit over highway speed cameras. It affirms the Iowa Department of Transportation’s right to order the removal of some cameras.

Mayor Ron Corbett says attorneys are taking a few days to review the judge's ruling. 

"The Cedar Rapids City Council will probably decide at their next council meeting whether we want to join Des Moines and Muscatine and appeal the case," Corbett says.

Cedar Rapids takes in more revenue from traffic cameras than any other city in the state. 

cessna plane
DLR German Aerospace Center

Three Iowa airports could lose commercial air service under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Airports in Burlington, Fort Dodge and Mason City depend on federal subsidies to provide regular flights to major cities in the Midwest. Trump has proposed eliminating the Essential Air Service program, which makes those flights possible.

Flickr / ~W~

Iowa lawmakers are considering tougher regulations to keep drivers from texting. Right now, a texting driver can only be ticketed if they’re stopped for another offense, but a bill that passed out of a Senate subcommittee this afternoon would allow law enforcement to pull someone over for texting.

Since it’s hard to prove whether someone is texting or using their phone for another purpose, lawmakers say they’ll also consider “hands-free” legislation which would make it illegal to even hold a phone while driving.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Popular new network transportation services such as Uber and Lyft now face state regulations for the first time, which backers say will provide protection for drivers and passengers alike.  

Under a new law that went into effect January 1st, the companies will have new requirements for insurance, background checks, and zero tolerance for drug and alcohol use.  

SmartSign/flickr

Lifetime handicapped parking permits will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new state law cracking down on abuse of the permits.    

Starting January 1st, the bright blue placards for the permanently disabled will be good for only five years, after which they will need to be renewed.  

Acting Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe says there are approximately 530,000 lifetime permits in circulation.

He says that includes some abuse.

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.

Iowa Department of Transportation

A new high-tech method for finding carpool partners is up and running at the Iowa Department of Transportation’s website. 

At IowaRideshare.org a motorist or passenger enters basic information to locate someone with similar transportation needs.   

The proposed route will show up on an Iowa map.

Joyce Russell/IPR

State tourism officials have named three new byways through the state, including the historic Jefferson Highway.

The route was first designated 100 years ago, envisioned as the north-south equivalent to the Lincoln Highway.

It runs from Winnipeg, Manitoba to New Orleans, following Highways 65 and 69 from Northwood to Lamoni in Iowa.

New markers will go up along the historic route in time for the 2018 tourism season.

Loring Miller of Leon in Decatur County is one of the project’s boosters.

Pat Blank/IPR

It’s hard to ignore a blaring train whistle, flashing lights and bells.

But people do it all the time, both in cars and on foot.  Last year, two people in Iowa died in train accidents and another ten were injured.  Last weekend in Linn County, Iowa's second fatal accident this year between a train and a vehicle occurred near Alburnett.  That incident has sharpened the focus of a statewide rail safety campaign.

keokuk, iowa
WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

Conventional wisdom says city-living is expensive. But a new report from an Iowa public policy group finds that's not always the case.

The Iowa Policy Project's 2016 "Cost of Living in Iowa" report finds that even though Iowa cities have higher rents and childcare costs, health insurance and long commutes eat up bigger portions of rural household budgets.

wintersoul1/flickr

Lifetime handicapped parking permits would become a thing of the past if a bill in the Iowa Senate becomes law.

Lawmakers say some drivers may be acquiring permits from other family members, and using them to take up parking spaces reserved for drivers with real disabilities. 

Statehouse lobbyist Brian Johnson has a permanent disability.  

He believes some drivers are using permits passed down to them from parents or grandparents.

Valdosta-Lowndes MPO/flickr

Vehicles overtaking bicyclists on roadways without bike lanes would have to give the cyclists plenty of room under a bill that passed the Iowa Senate today.    

Under the bill, the car or truck would have to get completely over in the adjoining lane to pass, just as they do while passing any other vehicle. 

Lawmakers told stories of fatal or near-fatal accidents on county roadways. 

Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler described harrowing experiences on a bicycle in rural Butler County.

Flickr / Pat Hawks

If you are one of many who dislike driving on Interstate-80, the Iowa Department of Transportation wants to know what you’d do to make it better through an online survey. The department is gearing up for some major updates to I-80 and is collecting opinion data on the interstate's traffic volume, safety, convenience, and quality.

One of the main options being considered is additional lanes.

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.

Iowa Department of Transportation

Every year across the country children die of heatstroke after being left in locked vehicles. The Iowa Department of Transportation wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here.  

This week, the electronic billboard on Iowa interstates includes the slogan, “Where’s Baby?  Look Before you Lock.”      

The campaign comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Photo by John Pemble/IPR

A  transportation expert in the Iowa House warns Iowa's gas tax increase will fall short of meeting the state's transportation infrastructure needs.   

Burlington Democrat Dennis Cohoon says the Department of Transportation  estimates the state will need more than $215 million for road and bridge work.  The gas tax increase will bring in $204 million or less.

“Most of us are aware that this is not a long-term solution,” Cohoon says. “The revenue from the gas tax will diminish over time.” 

Cohoon says other ideas floated by the DOT should be on the table.

Michael Sauers / Flickr

Iowa's driver's licensing laws set it apart from most of the country. Teenagers can get learner's permits at fourteen, permits to drive to school after six months of instruction, and fairly unrestricted licenses at sixteen. But that may be putting young Iowans at risk.

Anne McCarte is Senior Vice President for Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She says teens' inexperience, coupled with their propensity to take risks, causes a disproportionately high rate of crashes.

Bruce Guenter/Flickr

Soybean, corn and wheat farmers in the upper Midwest lost about $570 million last winter, thanks mostly to transportation tie-ups.

Flickr / Dr. Warner

The Iowa Supreme Court says it’s legal for cities to issue tickets to vehicle owners using traffic cameras. Attorney Michael Jacobsma, who represented himself, says the city of Sioux City denied him due process when he was mailed a citation, after his vehicle was spotted by a traffic camera going 67 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour speed zone. 

Bengt 1955 / flickr

With at least one million gallons of crude oil and ethanol passing through Iowa on a single freight train, derailments like the one last week a few miles from Dubuque are a major concern.

Gerry Gaffney / Flickr

The Iowa Department of Public Safety has proposed legislation that would make hand-held cell phone calls while driving illegal and would make texting while driving a primary offense. 

The Iowa Department of Transportation is reporting 321 traffic related deaths in 2014, or four more than last year.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Central Iowa officials are putting the brakes on a drive to designate a new interstate that wraps around Des Moines. The story from IPR’s Rick Fredericksen. 


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. 

Iowa National Guard cameramen

Iowa's worst air disaster is being commemorated this coming weekend. It was 25 years ago when United Flight 232 wobbled into Sioux City for a crash landing that killed 112 passengers. Our historic sound project remembers that tragic day with audio recordings going back to July 19, 1989. Reporter Durrie Bouscaren contributed to this story.

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