Date: c. 1940
Description: This photo shows the early construction of an old road once called the Missouri River road or more simply the “River Road”. The idea behind the construction was to create a road to connect the Westside with downtown Sioux City, and hopefully increase traffic and business for the Westside. It also was a means of relieving traffic on Highway 77 and providing an easier route to the Big Sioux Bridge into South Dakota. It was a combined effort from the city and from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency. For the road’s construction the river was actually narrowed, part of a key flood control project also launched by the WPA. The sand and sludge left over was confined using the wooden structures shown in the photo. When sand and sludge are properly confined they make as good a foundation as any dirt or soil. The river road originally was meant to stretch all the way from the Westside through Downtown and into Morningside. The road was opened in 1949 and named Gordon Drive, after William Gordon, a key land developer in Sioux City.
A viaduct was built on the eastern section of Gordon Drive in order to connect it with Floyd Boulevard. It became part of US Highway 20, with the business district as Business Highway 20. And though it has been widened and modernized over the years, the eastern section of Gordon Drive, from Downtown to Morningside, still exists today with its large viaduct to Floyd. The western section, however, had a different destiny. President Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled across the country and saw how difficult it was navigating by the US Highway system. To solve this, Eisenhower proposed and signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which would create a federal highway system that we call the Interstate today. Sioux City was a junction for three different US Highways, and thus a prime city for Interstate construction. Sioux City was the starting point for the construction of Interstate 29, a north-south road from Kansas City to Manitoba. The first stretch was completed in 1958, connecting the western part of Gordon Drive (Highway 20) to the Combination Bridge on the river. From there crews worked northward into South Dakota and southward to meet up with the stretch that started in Missouri Valley, Iowa that same year. What had been western Gordon Drive in Sioux City became absorbed by Interstate 29 going southward toward Sergeant Bluff. The road from Sioux City to Missouri Valley was completed by 1967 and the whole expansion was complete by 1973.
Today Interstate 29 and Gordon Drive/Highway 20 are still major highways that keep traffic flowing in Sioux City. Recently a construction project has been undertaken to widen Interstate 29 through the city, as well as sections of Gordon Drive and downtown streets.
Donor: Roger Stolze