Iowa DOT Expands Highway Helper Program

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- There will be more help on the roadways than ever before in Iowa. The Department of Transportation (DOT) says it is expanding its Highway Helper hours and adding more service trucks out on the roadways.

Iowa DOT Director Mark Lowe said a new bid for the program recently came in $1 million cheaper than the previous contract and that means the DOT is able to extend their services for no extra cost.

The Highway Helper works to assist stranded drivers for free in doing things such as fixing flat tires, jump-starting vehicles, and even helping with a quick clearance off roadways for emergency responders.

Now in Des Moines, they have a third Highway Helper truck, expanded hours from 5 a.m.-9 p.m. during the week and new service hours on Saturday as well. The program already exists in the Council Bluffs and Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area, but now they've also expanded to the Quad Cities.

“It's really for us about increased safety for the traveling public and increased reliability and assistance,” Iowa Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe said. “One of the things we say is every minute counts because for every minute a lane is blocked on the system, the risk of a secondary crash goes up 2.8 percent. So by the time you get to 30 minutes you’re almost certain you're going to have some kind of accident or incident. So the faster we get those moved off, the safer those people are as well as the other folks on the road and that's what really matters to us.”

Lowe said Iowa State University did a study on the benefit-to-cost ratio and says every dollar spent on the Highway Helper program, Iowa gets an economic return of $10 or more in terms of avoided delays or avoided crashes.

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