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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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NORTHWEST ARTERIAL. The Northwest Arterial was a four-lane highway stretching four-fifths of a mile from U.S. 20 to Pennsylvania Avenue and then in a gradual northeast direction past Asbury Road on to Kennedy Road at 32nd Street. As part of the Dubuque Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, the highway was planned as a by-pass around Dubuque linking Highway 20 on the west with US 52/State Highway 3 on the north.

Forming part of the eastern boundary of one of the Dubuque INDUSTRIAL PARKS, the highway, completed in 1982, cost $2.3 million for the section from Highway 20 to Pennsylvania and $4.4 million to complete the project to Kennedy Road in 1989. A 3-1 ratio of city-borrowed money to federal funds was used for construction. The section up to Pennsylvania was built for $500,000 less than anticipated.

Traffic volume increased on U. S. 20 as each part of the new road was completed. The first phase was completed in 1982, the second in 1985 and the third which ended at Kennedy Road near 32nd Street in August, 1990. Increased traffic made the intersection of the Northwest Arterial and U. S. 20 increasingly dangerous leading to complaints of local citizens. In March, 1990 it was announced that the state would pay for more than half of the cost of traffic signals and their installation. (1)

Discussion of extending the highway to Sageville arose in 1992. On January 21, 1992 DMATS transportation planner Dave Pesch was asked to schedule a meeting with the Iowa Department of Transportation' director of planning and research to discuss the state's possible funding of the project as part of Iowa's primary highway system. (2)

On December 1, 1993 the Iowa Department of Transportation announced that it planned to spent at least $6 million to widen and improve the Northwest Arterial. The bad news was that state transportation officials did not plan to complete the improvements until the end of the century. The state agreed to spend $1 million in fiscal years 1996 and 1997 to purchase property adjoining the highway to make improvements. Construction was planned to begin in fiscal year 1998 and end in fiscal year 1999. Improvements hinged on the state, city and county swapping some roads. The city and county would maintain some state roads while the state would assume the cost of improving the arterial. (3)

In the late 1990s the Northwest Arterial was expanded from Kennedy Road to U.S. 52. In June 1997 state transportation officials announced that a four-lane extension would begin at Kennedy Road where the existing arterial--which would be expanded to four lanes--ended. Mayor Terry DUGGAN was not pleased with the no at-grade level intersections--one at Kennedy Road and the other where the arterial met the highway. He believed the plan had been to install a bypass without stoplights. (4) A state transportation planner speaking with a subcommittee of the Dubuque Metropolitan Transportation Study said that since money had been earmarked for both the Northwest and Southwest arterials for Dubuque no additional money was available. If the city wanted a bypass it could do so on its own. (5)

The construction of the bypass fueled business and residential growth on the western edge of Dubuque. The Embassy West residential area west of the Northwest Arterial and north of Pennsylvania (Middle Road) rapidly expanded to the north. MEDICAL ASSOCIATES CLINIC PC (THE) located its west campus south of Kennedy Road and east of the bypass. The surrounding area was quickly developed with several restaurants, a credit union building, and a furniture store. North of Asbury Road, development occurred somewhat slower. A Culver's restaurant on the northwest corner of the intersection of Kennedy Road and the bypass was immediately popular. The decision of Hy-Vee to open a large grocery store served as the anchor for the development of ASBURY PLAZA into a growing shopping center by 2006. Further north along the by-pass, STEVE'S ACE HARDWARE on Kennedy Road was the only commercial development closely linked to the highway as late as 2010.

Controversy repeatedly arose as the road was interrupted with stop lights. In 2008 stop lights were located at Associates Drive, Pennsylvania Avenue, Holliday Drive, Asbury, and Kennedy Roads. In addition, an access road existed to the northern edge of Asbury Plaza.

City officials in April, 2022 began the planning process for an $8.9 million project to rehabilitate and reconstruct a large portion of the roadway in the following two years. Work was expected to include the rehabilitation of the arterial's southbound lanes, reconstruction of the northbound lanes from U.S. 20 to John F. Kennedy Road, reconstruction of intersections with Asbury Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, and an extension of the left-turn land at the JFK intersection. (6) In June the two-year construction price tag was listed at $9.2 million. (7)

The second phase of the reconstruction program was scheduled for 2023. The previous year, the city repaved the road's southbound lanes, added 4-foot asphalt shoulders and reconstructed the intersections at Pennsylvania and Asbury roads. In April, 2023 plans called for removing the existing pavement, excavating for a new stone base, and installing pavement subdrains, a stone base and asphalt pavement. (8)

The arterial grew to four lanes in 1997 and the same year the city council approved a comprehensive plan for the road which included no more access from the road. This plan, however, was changed with the the development of Asbury Square with a major grocery store, banks, retail outlets and a movie theater. Cries that the arterial had become a "failed road" began to be heard.

On May 21, 2023 the Telegraph Herald editorial board wrote an editorial entitled, "Development of NW Arterial Calls for Further Study." Although the road was not always the quickest route between two places, with development of thousands of acres, the editorial suggested that perhaps it was time to change the name of the road. Hinging on the outcome of this 'change of mindset' and the creation of another intersection was the potential development of a 152-unit housing project. Work was scheduled to begin on another development of housing project which has only one access using Tiffany Court and Brueck and Blasen Roads. Residents along these roads were concerned about the increased traffic. Another access to the 'arterial' would eliminate that problem. One section of the road in 2023 still remaining a arterial was two miles between Highway 20 and Middle Road. Currently used as a speedway, the editorial suggested that a way to eliminate this condition was the placement of a stop sign perhaps near Associates Drive. It was estimated that to create a new intersection would cost $3.5 million. (9)



1. Japsen, Bruce, "Iowa to Help Pay for Arterial Lights," Telegraph Herald, March 8, 1990, p. 12

2. Arnold, Bill. "Study Might Show Arterial Fund Needs," Telegraph Herald, January 23, 1992, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19920123&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. Eiler, Donnelle. "Arterial Work Put Off Until '98," Telegraph Herald, December 1, 1993, p. 3A

4. McDermott, Brad. "State Unveils Plan to Connect Northwest Arterial to U. S. 52," Telegraph Herald, June 25, 1997, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970624&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. McDermott, Brad. "Planner: State Won't Fund Bypass on Dubuque's West End," Telegraph Herald, June 25, p. 3A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970624&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. Kruse, John, "$8.9 M Project Would Overhaul NW Arterial," Telegraph Herald, April 3, 2022, p. 1A

7. "NW Arterial Detour Ahead," Telegraph Herald, June 2, 2022, p. 1A

8. Kruse, John, "Routes Cleared for 2023 Road Projects," Telegraph Herald, January 28, 2023, p. 1A

9. Opinion, "Development of NW Arterial Calls for Further Study," Telegraph Herald, May 21, 2023, p. 9A