Life in the Fast Lane: Iowa Gets You Where You're Going

Iowa gets you to your destination faster.

Kevin Litwin
On Saturday, January 2, 2021 - 13:45
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It's easy to get around in Iowa, where shorter commute times allow residents to spend more time doing what they enjoy and less time sitting in their cars.

The average commute time in Iowa is 19.4 minutes, topped by only four other states. WalletHub ranked the Hawkeye State as the Top State for Driving in 2020. And things should only get better for motorists, with $3.2 billion designated over five years to improve Iowa's highways and bridges that connect to major interstates, including Interstates 29, 35 and 80.

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Justin A. Torner/The Univeristy of Iowa

Iowa is Future Focused

Iowa attracts talent from across the country, but some of its best is homegrown.

Carried Away

The state's superior highway system has made the state a hub for logistics and distribution, an industry that contributes approximately $5 billion to Iowa's gross domestic product. Iowa's central geographic location puts it within a day's drive of major U.S. and Canadian metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, Omaha, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

For truckers transporting goods, I-80 spans east to west from New York to California, and Interstate 35 stretches north to south from Canada to Mexico and intersects in the middle of Iowa. I-29, along the state's western border, serves a direct route to Kansas City and the Canadian border, and truck drivers also have access to auxiliary highway I-380 that connects major intrastate cities like Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.

On the Road 

In addition to the highways and interstates winding through Iowa, the state offers a number of scenic byways, from the 200-mile Loess Hills National Scenic Byway on the western edge to the 105-mile Historic Hills Scenic Byway in the southeast and many more in between. No matter which you choose, each one has must-stop places along its path that you won't want to miss.

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iStock/Jacob Boomsma

On Track and Water

Iowa also boasts standout rail and water shipping assets, including nearly 4,000 miles of railroad track used by 19 freight carriers that haul more than 250 million tons of freight each year. In addition, Iowa has invested in the first-ever statewide Freight Optimization Study to further assist Iowa-based companies in reducing their freight costs and improving their bottom lines.

Iowa has 491 miles of navigable rivers and is the only U.S. state bordered by two navigable rivers – the Mississippi and Missouri. Fifty-five barge terminals ship and receive tonnage along the Mississippi River, and five terminals are along the Missouri River. Most barge traffic is used to transport agriculture-related products.

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Phil Roeder/

Get Outside in Iowa

Iowa’s parks, waterways and trails provide residents and visitors with a constant connection to the great outdoors.

Let's Take a Jet

Iowa connects to the world through several regional airports around the state, including Des Moines International Airport, which offers nonstop flights to nearly 30 destinations. Iowa residents also have convenient access to neighboring Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois, and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Prior to COVID-19, Iowa airports were accommodating about 2.5 million airline passengers annually, with nearly 60% of those passengers associated with business travel. In addition, about 670 million pounds of cargo are transported through Iowa's airports each year.

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Kathryn Gamble

The Hawkeye State is in Good Health

Good health is achievable in Iowa, with its numerous healthy eating options, active lifestyle environment and quality health care.

Three Airports 

  • Iowa residents can fly in and out of Des Moines International Airport as well as Quad City International Airport in Illinois and Eppley Airfield in Nebraska.

If you'd like to learn more about Iowa, check out the latest edition of This is Iowa


Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.