The State of Iowa seems to be of the opinion that highways exist for the primary purpose of providing employment for construction workers and only incidentally as a means for travelers to get from point A to point B. This is most evidenced in two ways. The first is the constant construction on highways throughout the state where highway workers can be seen walking up and down behind the orange barricades seemingly without goal or purpose. Deadlines for completion are constantly pushed back and when “improvement” projects are actually completed they are built to specifications put forth years ago and entirely inadequate for traffic conditions when they are finished. Consequently new projects are immediately begun to modernize those just completed. Consequently eternal employment is guaranteed to highway workers and eternal frustration to motorists.
The second indication is the complete misuse or absence of road signs. The philosophy here seems to be that if you don’t know how to get to your destination you don’t deserve to go. Road signs in Iowa tend to be missing, misleading or wrong. My first indication of this was when traveling to Des Moines from Peoria, Il. In no hurry and wanting to enjoy a leisurely scenic drive across Iowa I was traveling on US highway 6 rather than the taking the express route Interstate 80. As I approached Iowa City, a forest of the familiar orange cones rose up and made driving through this busy college town a test of courage and determination. As I neared the western edge of the city a sign appeared “Detour US 6” with an arrow pointing to a two lane highway headed north. I dutifully followed the sign and went off into the dusk expecting to be eventually guided back to route 6 by further signs. No such luck. An hour later, far into northern Iowa I realized I was on my own and that there would be no further help from the Iowa Department of Transportation. I eventually found my way to Des Moines by dead reckoning arriving two hours later than planned. Now, having moved to Iowa and lived here for sixteen years I realize that this is simply business as usual for the Iowa DOT. You may or may not get a sign at a junction indicating to what destination the crossroad leads. And if you do, the odds are very good that the information may be incorrect. Yet I lived so long in the civilized world where the realization is that in the maze of highways crossing and crisscrossing this country travelers need indications of where highways lead that my expectations frequently exceed what Iowa is prepared to offer. Just last weekend attempting to find a county park in Warren county I turned right at a sign indicating the park was 4 miles to the south. Forty minutes later I had not encountered another sign or a park. Just another frustration accepted as normal by native Iowans. Myself, I can’t say I will ever get used to it.