100th Anniversary Looking Back - Connections
by Kay Weiss
C. W. Bond, the first secretary of the Greater Burlington Association (later the Chamber of Commerce), reported in 1926 on the GBA’s work with the various committees and members to improve the roads leading into Burlington in order to extend Burlington’s business interests. Special attention was paid to the road from Burlington east into Illinois. Dubbed the Harding Highway, the members believed that making Route 34 “passable year round” would make it possible for Burlington to “enjoy heavy tourism patronage.” Between 1923 and 1930, the Chamber of Commerce invested $12,000 “in Illinois roads leading to the bridge, not including the work which the Chamber of Commerce did in helping organize the Harding Highway and the raising of $15,000 for advertising, marketing, and promoting the campaign to pave the road across Iowa.” In 1930, the good roads committee was part of a group that planned a celebration for the completion of Federal Highway 34. Work on getting Highway 61 designated as a Federal highway also involved “much correspondence, conferences and work with state and national officials.”
The legislative committee worked closely with the roads committee regarding all road legislation, local, state, and national. In 1926, the GBA/Chamber Streets and Alleys Committee, working with city officials, was pleased to report that all the main roads in Burlington were paved to the city limits and that "an adequate system of street marking was being installed.” In 1927, the Chamber’s program of work included a “plank” devoted to roads in Des Moines County, Iowa, and Illinois, with special mention made of the need for road markers and road signs.
Members of the Waterways Committee met annually with representatives of the other states that border on the Mississippi to discuss their mutual concerns. In 1931, they all agreed to work together for the establishment of a 9-foot channel.
The Chamber of Commerce also sponsored an aviation committee that actively sought organized airport management as early as April 1930. In June of that same year, the committee arranged for a visit from the Iowa Air Tour. This group (which visited a number of communities around the state) featured “a girl pilot,” a wing walker, Georgie Porgie (a representative of the Georgie Porgie Company of Council Bluffs), and a display of sixty air machines. Special buses were arranged to take local citizens to the airport because there was to be no parking on the airfield due to the presence of so many planes.
Whether it has been support for the regional airport or the formation of the present Highway 34 and Highway 61 coalitions, throughout its history the Chamber of Commerce and its various committees and bureaus have worked to support good transportation options for our area.