ALTOONA, Iowa- The City of Altoona is looking at another way to promote the town’s economic development efforts. One idea getting favor here is to change the Highway 5 Bypass from Altoona to the southwest metro into an interstate designation. A similar designation is carried by I-235 through downtown Des Moines.
“For Altoona it’s about economic development,” said Mayor Skip Conkling. “It enhances the commercial development along that simply because it’s designated interstate highway,” said Conkling.
The idea is not attractive to the farmers who have fields on both sides of the highway. An interstate highway designation would mean no more farm equipment allowed on the road. That would mean large farm equipment, such as tractors, and combines would need to make long detours to get to fields.
“The main concern we have is just for farm safety,” said Brad Moeckley, who is President-Elect of the Polk County Farm Bureau. “We are very concerned about having to take farm equipment down East 14th Street,” said Moeckley.
He added, “it would restrict traffic flow and the width of the implementation would be a huge safety concern.” Moeckley said tractors could make long detours through the town of Runnells, if banned from an interstate roadway.
Mayor Conkling said he understands farmer’s concerns, having grown up on a farm. “My responsibility is to look after the city and economic development,” said Conkling. He added that he served on the City Council when the Bypass was built, and a special allowance was made for farm equipment at that time.
One idea being floated is to see if the Federal Highway Administration would allow for special permits to move equipment during fall and spring farming. That idea works for the Mayor and for Brad Moeckley. No word yet on when a highway name change would actually happen.