[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 22: US 6 in Iowa (Nebraska State Line to Dallas County Line; Pottawattamie, Cass, Adair and Madison Counties)

Go to: Part 21 | Main US 6 page | Part 23

[Original River-To-River Road shield.] And now we enter Iowa, continuing our tour through the Midwest and the breadbasket of America. The name derives from the Ioway people, itself a Sioux term and not their endonym, who inhabited the region in antiquity and subsequent to their forced relocation today exist as two descendent tribes in Oklahoma and collectively Kansas and Nebraska. The entirety of Iowa's US 6 routing is the continuation of former US 32 from Omaha (Part 21) along the 1920 Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway (Part 20) until US 6's expansion in 1934. It, in turn, was incorporated out of the 1910 River-To-River Road (a/k/a the River-To-River Highway), Iowa's oldest auto trail extending from the Missouri River and the Nebraska state line which we just crossed to the Mississippi River and the Illinois state line (Part 25), and the more obscure Great White Way/White Pole Road established the same year from Council Bluffs to Des Moines; the R-to-R ran somewhat more northerly than the White Pole, and much of what we will travel in western Iowa corresponds more to the latter than the former. The River-To-River shield at right dates from approximately 1912. Although some portion of the original alignments are bypassed and we will not travel them all, many remain US 6 or otherwise state or local highways, and the entire overall routing remains as important to the modern motorist as it did in 1910. Some of these alignments were late relinquishments to the local jurisdiction by the 2002 Road Tax Use Fund Commission and subsequent legislation, which transferred 712 miles of state highway to cities and counties.

In 1920 Iowa started adding primary numbers to its routes, selecting the same number if the route crossed a state line. As US 6's ancestor in those pre-US highway days was NE 6, the alignment entering the state here was thus signed IA 6. A minor renumbering occurred in 1926 to avoid collisions with the new US highways as then-IA 6 became US 32 (a second, larger Great Renumbering occurred in 1969). The Iowa highway marker, then as now, was a simple circle with the route number and for some number of years the state name. Like in eastern Nebraska much of US 6 has been superseded by Interstate 80, largely built along the older highway's routing between 1958 and 1972 when the final leg across the Missouri into Omaha was constructed; US 6 today is co-signed with several of its alignments and a I-80 spur. For that matter I-80 also completely superseded the planned Iowa Turnpike toll road, rendered obsolete by the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and never built. Historically undermaintained, I-80 suffered under substandard conditions for many years until a massive refurbishment with federal dollars in 1985.

As we enter the state on US 6, the current alignment also carried the Lincoln Highway (US Highway 395 Part 11) and US 30 until around 1931, US 30A/30S until 1939, US 275 until 1941 and US 75 until 1984; the latter two highways of course still exist but occupy different independent alignments. Again, we will have much more to say about the Lincoln Hwy when we actually intersect its modern alignment in Illinois.

Pottawattamie County, Iowa

Our first county in Iowa is Pottawattamie county, named for the Potawatomi tribe who occupied the upper Great Plains region east to the western part of the Great Lakes. In historic alignment with the Ojibwe (Chippewa, Ojibway) and Ottawa (Odawa) peoples as the Council of Three Fires, the alliance maintained multiple complex relationships with other tribes, the British and eventually the United States. Uprooted by the Indian Removal, many relocated to Nebraska and Oklahoma, though some bands remain near the Great Lakes and have their own respective reservations today. The name itself comes from their appellation in the Council as bodéwadmi, or "keepers of the fire," though their own endonym is neshnabé, a cognate of the term anishinaabe used collectively for multiple tribes in the region including the Ottawa and Ojibwe. The Council is also indirectly the source of the name of Council Bluffs, the county seat and largest city; it originally referred to where Lewis and Clark met the Otoe people in 1804 about 20 miles north on the Nebraska side, but the name later moved here with the removal of the Council tribes forced out of Chicagoland to this location overlooking the river. The settlement became a squatter's morass of other displaced tribes, some less inclined to coexistence and such squabbles exacerbated by the illegal whiskey trade, and the Potawatomi abandoned it for what is now the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas in 1846. The county was established in 1848, shortly after Iowa's statehood in 1846, and the city was incorporated in 1853. It has 62,166 of the county's 93,533 residents [2018].

US 6

In 2016, US 6 was moved to I-29 and I-80 in Council Bluffs; the current routing exits onto I-29 south from the dying I-480, merges with I-80, and continues with I-80 to exit 8 outside of town (we'll point this out). However, I am told that US 6 is still well marked in Council Bluffs by local reports as of this writing, and NAVTEQ still marks it as active in the city centre even though the only remaining state highway section is secret IA 906 from the end of city maintenance to the Interstate. Thus, this still probably generally reflects ground truth, and wasn't the case in 2006 anyway.

Entering Iowa on US 6, I-480 having ended in Nebraska. This sign has changed little; compare it with US 6/US 30A/US 75 in 1966.
Downtown as West Broadway.
EB US 6.
Junction IA 192.

US 6/IA 192/IA 906

IA 192, decommissioned in 2018, was always a small local arterial, originally serving the southern end of town down to US 34 and later expanding northward to US 6. Eventually superseded by I-29, it was decommissioned for the first time in 1975 but brought back in 1980 for a similar but different routing from I-29 on the north end to I-29/I-80 on the south, which is the alignment shown here. At one point this was US 75's old northern diversion.

With US 6's removal in 2016, this became the terminus for secret IA 906, the state-maintained remnant; IA 192 once again became redundant and was deleted. We continue as US 6/IA 192/IA 906.

Separation of W Kanesville Blvd and W Broadway, the old US 6 alignment.
At Harrison St/1st St both will change to E. The old alignment of US 6 continues on E Broadway to E Pierce St and then McPherson Avenue, where it rejoins US 6 somewhat east of town. This routing, which is now partially PottCo G60, is rendered discontinuous by the municipal airport and we will not travel it here. In 1968 US 6 was realigned along Kanesville to the new interchange with Interstate 80 and the old routing was relinquished.
Former IA 192 turns south along the 6th/7th St couplet.

US 6/IA 906

North Avenue.
Just prior to this junction is N Broadway, the earliest alignment of the Lincoln Hwy, which changes to Old Lincoln Hwy outside of town and was the former diversion of US 30, US 30A/US 30S, and initially US 75.
Sherwood Dr.
Approaching the I-80 junction and the modern US 6 routing. This is the end of IA 906.

US 6

I-80 is roughly where the old White Pole and R-to-R diverged, with modern US 6 on the former White Pole routing and I-80 more along the R-to-R. An old alignment survives here as the Old Railroad Highway, an erroneous name based on a misreading of "R-R." We unite them again a little later in this Part.

EB US 6.
Junction PotCo G6L.
Iowa is one of a few states, California being another notable example, to use alphanumeric designations for county highways. Unlike California's zoned approach, however, Iowa uses letters A-J for east-west highways (going north to south) and K-Z for north-south (west to east), skipping letters I, O, Q and U. Most then have a two-digit number except for diagonals like this one, which have a single digit and a locality-dependent letter (G6L links to L34, so it takes that letter). A few notable exceptions use four positions, and a minority of highways recently derived from former state routings maintain the previous route number with no lettering at all. While the letters (when present) would appear to negate any need for directional signage, motorists in general don't seem aware of what they mean, so many counties still use them.

Iowa's collection of county highways is massive (at least one business alignment is even known to exist) and most of them have only local minor significance. Thus, for reasons of space, I will only bother pointing out the ones of note to US 6 and our general eastbound progress.

Distance signage leaving town at Mile 8.
Grand Army of the Republic signage. This is generally well-preserved in Iowa.
The Council Bluffs water tower as we head east.
Mile 12.
Idyllic rolling hills and farmland on this sunny day.
Junction US 59.
Not designated until 1934, US 59 is another major north-south arterial despite its number. Originally between Port Arthur, TX and Pembina, ND, it was extended to the Mexican border at Laredo, TX in 1939 (now MX 85D) and given its own Canadian crossing in 1950 (now MT 59). The segment near Texarkana, TX is notable in that it precisely straddles the state line: the east side is in Arkansas, but the west side is in Texas. A major freeway today in Houston, it is one of the busiest in the United States and much of its Texas routing is poised to become I-69 and I-369 in the future; in Laredo it is already part of I-69W. The modern highway runs 1,911 miles.
Distance signage as we turn left.

US 6/US 59

This alignment is considered part of US 59 by IDOT.

NB US 59/EB US 6.
Entering Oakland at (US 59) Mile 28.
Formerly named Big Grove, both the former and current name reflect the occasional groves of oak trees that still dot the region. First built in 1880 along the banks of the West Nishnabotna River as a stop along the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, the modern city was incorporated in 1882 and has 1,501 residents [2019].
The picturesque downtown.
At the north end of the city, US 59 diverts off. The use of elongated arrows is characteristic of Iowa signage.

US 6

Back to rolling farmland.
PotCo M47, just for interest. Nothing special about it.
Cass county line.
Cass County, Iowa

Another county named for Gen. Lewis Cass (see Part 21), the choice of name here reflects like it did in Nebraska on some of the complicated attitudes to slavery in the Midwest prior to the Civil War. The county was established in 1851; its county seat and largest city is Atlantic, which has the majority of its 12,930 residents [2018].

Junction IA 48.
IA 48 is a (coincidentally) 48-mile linking route from US 6 to US 59. Never heavily travelled, it was not fully paved until 1975.
Mile 45.
Through the plains.
Entering Atlantic.
Billing itself as the "Coca-Cola Capital of Iowa" (although I think this could equally apply to the use of high fructose corn syrup, it refers to the large local Coke bottler), local legend holds that its founders estimated it was roughly equidistant from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (untrue) and flipped a coin; Atlantic won. The city was incorporated in 1868 and has 6,526 residents [2019].
Through town.
Junction IA 83 at Mile 53, beginning a brief multiplex.

US 6/IA 83

IA 83 was an original 1920 route from Avoca to Walnut; in 1935 it was extended to US 6 here. In 1973, US 6 was moved to I-80 in this region and the old highway briefly became IA 973 before being added to this one also (we'll mark the relevant junctions). After the 2003 truncation removed its westernmost alignment, it remains 34 miles long.

Olive St.
Through the eastern part of the city.
Picking up US 71 outside of town.

US 6/US 71/IA 83

An original 1926 route, US 71 has always been a major national plumbline route, initially from Port Allen, LA (later Baton Rouge) to International Falls, MN. Its northern terminus has always been the Canadian border, today at ON 71/ON 11 (TC); its southern end was eventually retracted to modern US 190 in the same region. A significant portion through Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana is being upgraded as the future I-49 from Shreveport to Kansas City, though it seems likely the old designation will persist. The modern highway runs 1,532 miles.

Whitney St. Notice that US 6 gets the shortest shrift on the signage.
Separation of US 6 and US 71 towards I-80, with IA 83 continuing on.

US 6/US 71

This is the first of several old alignments we regrettably will not have time to travel. From here IA 83 continues as old US 6 (and later old IA 973) through Wiota to Anita at IA 148, where it terminates. This is signed as the White Pole Rd, as it is the continuation of that historic routing, and continues as such east of Anita as CassCo G30 to Adair. We will mention more of this alignment when we meet it. For now, we continue north.

Leaving town.
More fields and farmland.
Advance signage for I-80, with Iowa-specific "Interchange No." signage (in this case, exit 60). Iowa is also one of a few states to still regularly put the state name on Interstate shields.
Despite this signage, US 71 continues north; it does not multiplex with I-80 here.
Junction Interstate 80 at (US 71) Mile 63. We get on the eastbound on-ramp.

I-80/US 6

Despite being a relatively early multiplex, US 6 still doesn't get signed on the same pole often, though it is moderately well-signed in general.
Mile 61 (I-80).
Distance signage leaving US 71.
Adair county line.
Adair County, Iowa

Sectioned from Pottawattamie county in 1851, we will see little of this county from the freeway though US 6 did and technically does pass through much of it. Named for General John Adair, who fought in the War of 1812 and was later Governor of Kentucky, it has a population of 7,063 [2018] with its county seat at Greenfield.

Exit 76, junction EB "something" and SB AdairCo N54.
The something, though it may not have been signed at the time, is now either AdairCo 925 or F65 (though NAVTEQ favours the former). However, it was originally US 6, naturally, which was transferred to I-80 in this segment in 1980. The remnant was IA 925 until the 2003 decommissioning. The oldest alignment, actually signed White Pole Rd today, is at exit 75 just before this one. This is the continuation of CassCo G30 from Anita, that particular designation ending at an intersection just south of the Interstate.
Eastbound I-80 and US 6 shields at the junction.
In 2006, wireless Internet at an Iowa rest stop was notable.
Junction IA 25 at exit 86, Greenfield's primary access to the mainline Interstate.
IA 25 once went all the way to the Missouri state line by 1938 before being cut to its current 103-mile length in 1980. North of this interchange it intersects AdairCo 925 and partially carries old US 6 between Menlo and Casey before continuing on.
Again, not a lot of same-pole love here.
Distance signage.
Madison county line.
Madison County, Iowa

Modern US 6 passes very quickly through it, but we will make a stopover for its famous bridges in the next Part. Named for the fourth U.S. President, James Madison, it was one of Iowa's twelve original counties founded in 1846. Its county seat is in Winterset; the modern county has a population of 16,249 residents [2018].

Finally, same-pole love! Now, let's talk about relative shield sizes.
Dallas county line (I told you we wouldn't be here long).
Continue to Part 23
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