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History of the Interstate Trail, Jefferson Highway and Jefferson Association


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Bonding for completion

In a special session of the Iowa legislature in March 1928, the General Assembly voted to submit a constitutional amendment to the voters of the state at the general election to be held in November of that year that provided for a $100-million bond issue that would complete the paving of the principal primary roads of the state and gravel the less important highways. If the bond issue carried, it was expected to complete the paving of the Jefferson Highway across Iowa by the end of 1929. The measure did not receive the support of the Iowa Highway Commission, and failed.

Jefferson Highway in Iowa completed

Address A four-foot high concrete monolith with a metal plaque was unveiled for the dedication of completion of the highway sections in Iowa and Minnesota. Completion of the route was defined as graded and graveled. Located at the Minnesota/Iowa state line on U.S. 65, the monument reads, “This marker dedicated October 30, 1930, by Governor Theodore C. Christianson of Minnesota and Governor John Hamill of Iowa, commemorates the completion of the Jefferson Highway across their states.”

Route is numbered and later renumbered

The Jefferson Highway route name was abandoned in July 1, 1920, when Iowa’s Primary Road numbering system was adopted and all highway/trail names were assigned a highway number. The Jefferson Highway route was numbered Iowa 1. The northern terminus of the route was the Minnesota state line north of Northwood and southern terminus the Missouri state line south of Lamoni.

On February 25, 1924, Iowa 1 was straightened between Sheffield and Hampton. The old alignment followed what is now Franklin County Road S-43.

The Iowa 1 route number was decommissioned October 16, 1926, and the original route incorporated into two new U.S. route segments --- U.S. 65 and U.S. 69 --- when the U.S. route numbering system was adopted.
(Note: Iowa 1 was later recommissioned and used for a route from Brighton in Washington County to just south of Anamosa in Jones County.)

Today, U.S. 65 extends from the Minnesota state line north of Northwood, south to the Missouri state line at Lineville. At the time of designation in 1926, the segments from Mason City to the Cerro Gordo/Franklin County line and through Polk County were paved. The work paving U.S. 65 was not completed until1968, when the segment from U.S. 69/Iowa 349 south of Indianola to Iowa 205 was paved.

U.S. 69 extends the Minnesota state line state line near Emmons, Minn., to the Missouri state line near Lamoni. All of U.S. 69 was unpaved at the time of designation in 1926, but it was entirely paved by the end of 1929.

Route safety

In response to a June 1925 front page article published in the Des Moines Register about six motor vehicle fatalities occurring along the Jefferson Highway, the Jefferson Highway Association wrote a letter (dated June 23, 1925) to Iowa State Highway Commission Highway Engineer Fred White recommending that Iowa install safety signs on the roadway similar to those being installed in Minnesota, which read “loose gravel,” “soft shoulders,” “narrow road” or “sharp curve.”

Jefferson Highway Association International President Hugh Shepard wrote, “It is my belief that a number of lives will be saved on the Iowa highways, if a similar system of warning signs is adopted in the State of Iowa, and I would recommend this to you for your careful consideration and prompt attention, particularly on the Jefferson Highway and other roads where the traffic is heavy.”

In the early 1920s, representatives from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana toured several states, including Iowa, with the intent of developing a basis for uniform signs and road markings. The group reported its findings to the Mississippi Valley Association of Highway Departments in 1932. Their efforts resulted in standards for sign shapes and messages, some of which are still in use today and part of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices adopted for use by all states.

1928 U.S. Good Roads Association Address

Address Here is a link to the address given by Hugh H. Shepard, Mason City, Iowa, Life Director and Past International President of the Jefferson Highway Association, before the 16th Annual Convention of the United States Good Roads Association at Des Moines on May 30, 1928. The remarks were published in the October 1928,
Annals of Iowa, A Historical Quarterly, published by the Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa.

The address outlines much of the history of the Jefferson Highway Association and how it contributed to the building of the goods roads in Iowa and across the nation, assisted travelers through the marking of the route and fostered international relations through its connection to Canada.

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