Group makes head­way on old Route 20 des­ig­na­tion

Vis­i­tors to the small north­east­ern Iowa city of Dy­ersville can soak up all the Amer­i­cana that em­bod­ies a baseball di­a­mond built amid corn­fields for the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” At Fort Dodge, they can ex­pe­ri­ence a replica of 19th-cen­tury fort life. A

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - COMMUNITY - By Margery A. Beck

But to get there, they have to get off U.S. 20 and take the old Route 20 — a meandering road that spans 3365 miles and a dozen states, from Bos­ton on the East Coast to New­port, Ore­gon on the West Coast.

A na­tional group hop­ing to en­cour­age trav­el­ers to visit the small towns and take in the scenic views all along the old route has been work­ing for years to get it des­ig­nated as a his­tor­i­cal auto route, much like the bet­ter-known Route 66. While the ef­fort is gain­ing trac­tion in Iowa, the His­toric Route 20 As­so­ci­a­tion has faced ob­sta­cles be­cause the ef­fort takes co­op­er­a­tion from so many ju­ris­dic­tions.

“Al­most ev­ery town has a story to tell,” Bryan Farr, pres­i­dent of the His­toric Route 20 As­so­ci­a­tion in Ch­ester, Mas­sachusetts, said. “That’s our mission: To raise the pro­file of the com­mu­ni­ties, small busi­nesses, mom and pop shops and his­toric sites along the orig­i­nal 1926 align­ments of U.S. Route 20.”

The ef­fort in Iowa is nearly com­plete, and could serve as a model for other states. Farr has got­ten all 35 ci­ties and towns and 11 of 13 coun­ties along the route in Iowa to pass res­o­lu­tions of sup­port. He ex­pects the last two coun­ties to give their ap­proval this spring.

“As soon as that hap­pens and he sub­mits the pa­per­work, it’s a done deal,” said Tim Crouch, state traf­fic en­gi­neer with the Iowa De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

State work­ers would then place more than 100 his­toric mark­ers along the en­tire 333 miles of the high­way in Iowa.

“It will be the long­est such his­toric route in Iowa,” Farr said, “stretch­ing from the Mississipp­i River to the Mis­souri River.”

“Al­most ev­ery town has a story to tell. That’s our mission: To raise the pro­file of the com­mu­ni­ties, small busi­nesses, mom and pop shops and his­toric sites along the orig­i­nal 1926 align­ments of U.S. Route 20.”

— Bryan Farr, pres­i­dent of the His­toric Route 20 As­so­ci­a­tion

But other states, like In­di­ana, have im­ple­mented a mora­to­rium on new his­toric roads. In Ohio, Farr wran­gled co­op­er­a­tion from some local gov­ern­ments, only to see those plans dis­solve as elections ush­ered in new of­fi­cials.

“In Mas­sachusetts, we have a bill pend­ing to des­ig­nate old 20 as an his­toric auto high­way,” Farr said. “In New York state, we’ve just only got­ten started with the process.”

In Iowa, Cush­ing of­fi­cials be­gan call­ing Farr af­ter seeing a news story six

years ago about the Route 20 plans. Sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties in Iowa, as well as other states, have al­ready placed His­toric Route 20 signs along roads.

The process has al­ready pro­duced re­sults for one Iowa com­mu­nity. On ap­pli­ca­tions for street im­prove­ments and equip­ment fund­ing, Ear­lville city clerk Linda Gaul was able to say that the town is lo­cated along an area con­sid­ered to be a his­toric route.

“We were ap­proved both,” Gaul said.

Farr launched the ef­fort, and the as­so­ci­a­tion, in 2012, af­ter learn­ing that he had missed dozens of sites by stick­ing to the fourlane thor­ough­fare dur­ing


a road trip.

While U.S. 20 now by­passes most towns and small ci­ties, the orig­i­nal route does not. It also of­fers scenic views along Lake Erie in Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia and New York and state forests in Mas­sachusetts. To the west, it takes trav­el­ers through Ne­braska’s Sand­hills, the western terrain of Wy­oming, right up to the en­trance of Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park, be­fore pass­ing through the south­west cor­ner of Mon­tana, the moun­tains of Idaho and forests of Ore­gon, end­ing within sight of the Pa­cific Ocean. Some orig­i­nal por­tions of the route re­main un­paved.

In Iowa, the as­so­ci­a­tion will pay $100 per his­toric route sign in­stalled by state crews, Crouch said.

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s work is funded through grant writ­ing, fundrais­ing, pri­vate do­na­tions and mem­ber­ships. Its board of di­rec­tors is made up of vol­un­teers, and Farr works as a bar­tender to pay his bills.

The ef­fort is Farr’s pas­sion. And while it’s been slow go­ing so far, he ex­pects it to speed up as soon as Iowa’s cross-state route is des­ig­nated.

“The idea was al­ways to have one state com­plete,” he said. “Then we could go to Mas­sachusetts or Ne­braska or Ore­gon and say, ‘This is what we’ve done here.’ Iowa can be a model.”


U.S. Route 20en­ters the city and goes around the Civil War Mon­u­ment, in An­gola, Ind., that was erected in 1917. An­gola is the Steuben County seat, with its court­house on the left. The His­toric Route 20As­so­ci­a­tion is hop­ing to en­cour­age trav­el­ers to visit small towns along the old Route 20high­way with a his­toric des­ig­na­tion.

Bryan Farr, pres­i­dent of the His­toric Route 20As­so­ci­a­tion in Ch­ester, Mass, stands on an orig­i­nal align­ment of U.S. Route 20 near Orin, Wy.

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