CLINTON — What is it about a historic road that makes it worth such commemoration?
That’s the question John Mazzello posed to audience members on Friday inside the Bickelhaupt Arboretum. Mazzello and fellow presenter Janice Gammon represent the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway — one of the nation’s oldest, coast-to-coast passages — part of which runs through Clinton.
For the rest of the year, both plan to meet with communities bordering the 102-year-old highway. Their mission is to collect ideas to enhance what already makes the road special.
“We’d like to communicate with each community along the Lincoln Highway,” Mazzello said. “There’s quite a lot of people to talk to... How do we all work together on trying to build a stronger Lincoln Highway?”
Mazzello serves as the Corridor Management Plan coordinator. There are a series of “intrinsic qualities” about Lincoln Highway, he said, among them historic and recreational keystones.
Once the Heritage Byway group gathers all the feedback, the plan is to draft a full CMP that will shape how the highway is presented to travelers. Don’t ignore Clinton’s role in this, Mazzello added. The city represents road-users’ first introduction to Iowa’s Lincoln Highway corridor.
“You have the welcome to Iowa portion,” he said. “Not only is the Lincoln Highway itself an end, but it also is a means to get people to somewhere, to get people to our communities.”
The highway isn’t to be confused as U.S. 30, though both road designations are closely intermingled. U.S. 30 was constructed after Lincoln as a way to convey traffic expediently across the country. Over time, portions of Lincoln have dropped off 30, and the Heritage Byway’s focus is on the preservation of the former.
But Mazzello added there are many objectives that can serve both portions of the road. Earlier this week, several coalitions urged the Department of Transportation to consider a four-lane expansion of U.S. 30 during a commission meeting in Davenport.
The Heritage Byway group hopes to encourage the technical improvements, but is more directly focused on Lincoln Highway’s preservation.
“The important thing is to realize that it’s not always the case that Highway 30 is the Lincoln Highway,” Mazzello said. “In a lot of cases, it’s even more of a local road... The Lincoln Highway was specifically designed to go through communities so there would be amenities for people to stop at.”
After a brief slideshow, Mazzello and Gammon delved into their real objective: getting the feedback of locals. Many audience members agreed the objectives to enhance both U.S. 30 and Lincoln Highway are linked and will benefit the neighboring communities throughout the state if realized.
Clinton historian Gary Herrity said there appears to be a disconnect between those communities and decision-makers in Des Moines. That’s why efforts by groups like Heritage Byway are valuable.
“We need U.S. 30 as an alternative to the dangerous Interstate 80,” Herrity said. “I don’t think the powers that be in Des Moines understand the value in it as a highway. Your job is very valuable to helping them understand.”
Others, like Clinton Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Carrie Donaire, said there are opportunities to present Lincoln road users with something to draw them to those intrinsic values. There’s a way to tie history to the modern age.
This may not be the last time Mazzello and Gammon visit with locals. He said there are 13 counties and 40 cities that border Lincoln Highway and his group can meet up to five times with each of them.
He encouraged ideas, and stressed the importance of Clinton-based input.
“The more people we can document coming to these meetings is going to be valuable,” Mazzello said. “The end result is that this goes back to the Department of Transportation as something they can use.”
Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org