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Paper state road map survives despite technology

DES MOINES — Even in this age of smartphones and Google maps, the Iowa Department of Transportation is printing more than one-million traditional road maps this year.

The full-color map measures 27-by-37 inches and includes 942 incorporated cities and a few hundred more unincorporated towns. Mark Hansen, a DOT transportation planner, says there are several hundred changes with every printing, but only a few most people would spot.

“A couple of highlights I want to point out is the renaming of Interstate 680, north of Council Bluffs. That is now 880. It is not a new interstate, it’s a new naming convention to add clarity,” Hansen says. “It helps people navigate where that particular interstate is.”

The 2021-2022 map also contains a new four-lane highway heading into Dubuque, and Highway 30 is also now four lanes around Lisbon and Mount Vernon. While many Iowans carry cellular phones capable of using GPS to pinpoint their location, Hansen says there’s really no substitute for the printed-on-paper, fold-out version.

“I hear from many people that they do appreciate the transportation map as they’re traveling and as they’re planning their routes,” Hansen says, “because looking at a little map on a smartphone just doesn’t do the state of Iowa justice.”

While fewer people are snapping up the maps from year to year, Hansen says there absolutely remains a strong demand for them and he assures, maps will not be going the way of the phone book.

“We’re printing 1.1-million this year and that’s the two-year cycle,” Hansen says. “Generally, we go through all of them. I try to gauge supply with demand and I’ve watched the statistics on it for 15 years now. I’ve got a spreadsheet that tracks all that.” The maps are available at drivers license stations, rest areas, welcome centers, county treasurer’s offices, all six Iowa DOT district offices — and online at www.iowadot.gov/maps.

“It is available for viewing, printing, and downloading,” Hansen says. “We have a smartphone app available there also so people can travel with the transportation map on their smartphone. That’s something that I do regularly. The application will show you where you are on the transportation map as a blue dot.”

Besides every Iowa city from Abingdon to Zwingle, the map shows all highways, airports, rail lines, lakes, rivers, and major county roads. There are also detailed maps for the state’s 16 largest cities.

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