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Southwest Iowa Roadtrip

Neil Bratney

April 20, 2002

Having just completed my second-to-last exam of my second year of medical school, I left the large intestines behind and set out on a spur-of-the-moment roadtrip into southwest Iowa. My goals of this trip were twofold:

  1. Traverse the only decomissioned border-to-border Iowa state highway.
  2. Bag all of the 10 state route termini in Fremont County.

I'm happy to say I completed both of these and more.

Route and Notes:

From my apartment in Omaha, east on Harney St., north on 24th Ave., east on Burt St., north on 16th St., west on Locust St. across decomissioned IA 347.

Ok, my big goal #1 of crossing a border-to-border Iowa state highway wasn't that lofty. IA 347 crossed the island of Iowa land on the Nebraska side of the Missouri that comprises the city of Carter Lake, IA. For more info, and pictures, see my IA 347 termini page.

During the 1980's the state of Iowa decomissioned many of its city spur and intra-city state routes. IA 347's decomissioning was sealed under these plans, however, IA 165 remains, evidently carrying enough traffic between downtown Omaha and its airport to warrant its continued designation as an Iowa state highway.

Visit the IA 347 terminus page for pictures.

South on Abbott Drive, across IA 165, via Capitol Ave and 16th St. through the construction mess in Downtown Omaha, East on I-480, and into Iowa.
South on I-29 to IA 145, exit 20.

I-480 outlines the north side of Omaha on a viaduct. A new convention center / arena is being built on the north side of I-480, and the surface streets leaving the north side of downtown are all in a state of flux now.

I-29 is multiplexed through Council Bluffs with I-80 and is horribly under-capacity: only 2 lanes in each direction, and a average daily traffic count over 75,000. Even Saturday afternoon, it felt tight.

South of Council Bluffs, I-29 lies in the very flat Missouri River valley. However, the flatness is nicely contrasted with the bluffs of the "Loess Hills" on the left hand side.


Visit the IA 165 page for pictures of this road through Carter Lake.
Approaching the I-80 junction on southbound I-29.
No control cities!
Exit here for I-80 west to Omaha.
The north US 34 interchange (eastbound)
US 34 joins I-29 for a few miles, here.
The south US 34 interchange (westbound)
Plattesmouth is in Nebraska
Pictures of the Loess Hills from southbound I-29.
Is this I-29 or I-25?

East on IA 145, through McPaul and Thurman, north on US 275, east on IA 184 through Randolph and past Imogene to US 59.

I took lots of pictures around the western terminus of IA 145. Fremont county seemed to enjoy conserving sign posts, putting as many signs as possible onto the same post. When elsewhere in Iowa you'd see certain signs together, and certain signs separated, things were all backward around I-29 in Fremont County.

At most Iowa interstate interchanges, a little sign indicates the interstate exit number. It is usually placed with the "JCT I-XX" sign. However, in Fremont county, it's moved to the first arrowed interstate sign. The "JCT" sign looks quite bare.

Also, look at the overpass bridge supports... they seem to be made of PVC pipe. Hmmm.....

Visit the IA 145 page for pix of the western terminus.
Unusual signage of the I-29 exit number.
What's holding this bridge up? PVC?
The I-29 JCT sign, is placed with the McPaul village sign, and is missing its exit number sign.
This IA 145 sign had a little accident.
Visit the IA 145 page for pix of the eastern terminus.
Visit the IA 184 pages for more pictures of its termini.

West terminus

South on US 59, west on Page Co. J14, south on M41, south on IA 48, through Shenandoah and east out of town on old IA 2, west on IA 2, south on US 59 to Missouri border.

The next Iowa highway terminus on my agenda was IA 48, so I drove across a few county roads to intercept IA 48 about 7 miles prior to its southern terminus. Just as IA 48 enters Shenandoah, it turns west to intercept US 59 on the north side of town. In doing so, it crosses the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, the same path I bicycle on every other day in Council Bluffs. It think, however, it would be too hefty of a trek to make it to Shenandoah and back, as this would be at least a century ride, completely gravel. Maybe something I can train for someother day. I think the Wabash railroad station is at the north side of town, and the CB&Q station was downtown.

Old IA 2 was the main road through town... it goes southeast to northwest. The hospital is on this road at the southeast corner of town, and is ironically run by Nebraska Health System, who, in fact is run by my medical school, UNMC.

I found IA 2's current alignment, a mile south of Shenandoah, and followed it back to US 59. Then I took US 59 down to the Missouri border, just so I could say I visited Missouri. HA!

Visit the IA 48 page for more pictures of its south terminus.
Entering Missouri, southbound on US 59.
Re-entering Iowa.
I hadn't seen these Iowa State Patrol signs anywhere but interstates. Here's one on US 59 at the border.

North on US 59, west on IA 333, jogged to south to state border and back on L72, continued west to I-29.

Got pictures at the next terminus on my list, the east end of IA 333. I guess 333 actually used to begin here and go east toward Northboro, but that is now switched with J64 heading east and 333 heading west. IA 333 parallels the Missouri border just over one mile to the north. Nonetheless, I was surprised to see distance signs pointing toward Missouri cities on Fremont county roads. The sign at the L72 intersection indicated it went to Rockport [Missouri], so I hung a quick left. No real indications at the border crossng, other than a change of pavement.

I thought I'd be cool, and take a gravel road following the border. This road seemed to be another good 'ol Iowa "Class B - Minimum Maintenance Road - Enter At Your Own Risk," but was recently upgraded (?) with a new layer of gravel and the warning signs removed. There was also a brand new bridge along this road, that actually looked about three times too wide. Unfortunately, despite improvements, the road still wasn't good enough on this rainy day, so I headed back to IA 333.

IA 333 is multiplexed with US 275 thru Hamburg, then it turns and heads west to its terminus at I-29, exit 1.

Visit the IA 333 page for pictures at its eastern terminus.
The signage for Rockport at the IA 333 / L72 intersection.
New and improved gravel road! Rock on mud.
Another picture of the condition of this road.
IA 333 and US 275 are multiplexed east of Hamburg, over the Nishnabotna River.
IA 333 and US 275's junction in Hamburg.
Travelling on IA 333 thru Hamburg, you're pointed toward I-29.
More pictures at the IA 333 western terminus page.
Another case of a misplaced exit number sign.

Returned to Hamburg, then north on L44, west on IA 2 to IA 239 and Waubonsie State Park.

L44 north from Hamburg is a very scenic drive, hugging the edge of the Loess Hill bluffs over the Missouri valley. I turned right onto East IA 2, and entered the forested hills. Despite being a cool, rainy spring day, the scenery was beautiful, as all the trees were just coming into leaf. Pictures were taken around IA 239's termini, and inside Waubonsie State Park.

Descending IA 2 from Waubonsie State Park.
Approaching the turn-off to IA 239.
More pictures of signs can be found at the IA 239 terminus page.
The equestrian area is on the north side of IA 2.
View from the overlook in Waubonsie S.P.
Inside the park. Sad that I think, "Nice study place..."

Followed IA 2 west to Nebraska border, returned east on IA 2, north on L31, west on US 34 to Nebraska border.

The first few miles of IA 2 are part of the Lincoln, Neb., to I-29 cut-off expressway. IA 2 is four lanes here, and carries quite a bit of traffic. There's a massive new four lane bridge over the Missouri. I drove around in the mud for a little while (and had fun doing it!) looking for a good spot from which to photograph the bridge.

I followed L31 north from IA 2, paralleling I-29. Only the southern four mile miles of Mills County were gravel between IA 2 and US 34. I returned to the river to take some pictures of the old US 34 bridge, built in the early 1930s. Up close, the approaches were quite ornate, appearing to have once held lamps or some other decoration.

The IA 2 expressway begins at the I-29 junction.
IA 2 approaches the Missouri River. Click here for the IA 2 terrminus page.
The IA / NE 2 bridge over the Missouri River.
Another shot of the bridge. Check out the semi to judge scale.
A train was parked across the river at the elevator. Former CNW still needing a UP paintjob? Private?
The US 34 Bridge. The roadway is so narrow, that the 15 MPH speed limit must be followed.
Ornamental post on the right side of the bridge.
You can see the BN railroad bridge paralleling the highway bridge.
Another view of the beginning of the bridge.
The left bridge entrance is overgrown with vines.

East on US 34, north on I-29, west on I-80, north on I-480, west on Farnam St. to my apartment.

Back at the US 34 / I-29 junction, I noticed that a farmer, trying to burn weeds out of his ditch, had accidentally burned down a DOT distance sign. Oops! Also noticed at the north US 34 interchange, strange-style guide/directional signs. Instead of using normal shields, they had big banners. I think I remember seeing signs like this on I-35 in northern Iowa. Anyone else?

Finished off the trip by cruising home on the interstate. I had left at 1:30 PM, and returned at 7:00 PM.

Hot stuff! How long till the DOT notices this??
Don't miss the turn! US 34 turns south here to join I-29.
Older style banner signs; even with a cut-out US 34 shield.
Approaching I-80 on northbound I-29.
The I - 80 / 29 split: Exit 1A, just before crossing the river.

Written by Neil Alexander Bratney
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Page Created April 28, 2002.