Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

CNHI/SE Iowa

November 28, 2013

Road to Iowa history

OTTUMWA — The Iowa Department of Transportation librarian fielded a lot of questions in Wapello County this week. But he knew most people were thinking, "The DOT has a librarian?"

Leighton Christiansen finds the books, essays and articles needed by engineers when they are researching highway design. He also lists and cares for thousands of photos, maps and other documents generated by the DOT. For the 100th anniversary of "official" Iowa transportation, Christiansen and his colleagues found some of the most popular photos in order to tell the story of boats, railroads and the relatively new innovation of automobiles.

One photo showed an old-fashioned car sunk to its axle in mud on an Iowa road deep with wagon wheel ruts. History lovers at the Ottumwa Public Library "Reminisce Society" event reacted audibly to the picture.

"When it rained, folks would say that the [wonderful] roads in Iowa are as wide as they are deep," said Christiansen.

But as mechanized farm equipment became more accessible, farmers began producing far more than they and their neighbors needed. Agriculture was changing the economy. Or it could, if farmers were able to get their product to market. That was one of the first big motivators for getting Iowa's roads in shape.

In the early 1900s, there were a few miles of paved roads. The rest were either gravel or dirt. The interstates didn't exist. The changes from 1913 to 2013 would make for a stunning before-and-after image. Christiansen said Iowa has 100,000 miles of roads (the distance from one side of the United States to the other is roughly 3,000 miles) and 24,000 bridges.

Early on, one popular idea involved sticking planks onto the surface of the roads. One long set of planks for one wheel, and about a yard to the left, another long set of planks for the other wheel. Wapello County boosters were advocates of road improvement. Like other officials, they wanted visitors to bring their business to their neck of the woods. Over time, 19th century Wapello County came up with $8,000 for wooden planks, Christiansen said.

Text Only
CNHI/SE Iowa
  • Church's denied request for National Guard visit draws national attention

    A Missouri church finds itself in the middle of a media storm after the Missouri National Guard, citing short notice and time constraints, was not able to fulfill a request last week to appear at the church’s vacation Bible school.

    August 1, 2014

  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.21.22 PM.png VIDEO: Dog 'faints' from excitement of seeing owner

    A reunion between a Pennsylvania woman who had been living overseas for two years and her pet schnauzer has gone viral, garnering nearly 20 million views on YouTube.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

Features
AP Video
Congress Approves Iron Dome Funding Raw: House OKs Bill for Border Crisis Funds Rare Whale Fossil Pulled From Calif. Backyard Denver Celebrates Pot at the County Fair Escaping Email: Inspired Vision or Pipe Dream? Obama Calls on Hamas to Release Israeli Soldier Hispanic Caucus Slams GOP for Border Bill Shifts Obama: GOP Not Even Trying to Solve Immigration Emory Prepares to Treat American Ebola Cases US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J Visit Youth at Jail Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire Despite Moratorium, Detroit Water Worries Remain
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Upon completion and reopening of Third Street, should the City of Knoxville wait to start the next stage of the Streetscape and Infrastructure project until 2015?

Yes
No
     View Results