Highway Helper program expanding hours and service areas

Highway Helper program expanding hours and service areas

Earlier this week, the Iowa Department of Transportation expanded the hours of its popular Highway Helper program in the current service areas of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, and Council Bluffs, as well as adding service to the Quad Cities.

Keeping traffic moving so commuters have reliable drive times and reducing backups that can lead to dangerous conditions is a goal of the program. The free service assists motorists with flat tires, jump starts, and fuel to quickly clear stalled vehicles which can cause backups.  If more extensive repairs are needed, they can transport a driver to a safe location where the driver can make arrangements, in addition, Highway Helpers remove debris from the roadway and assist first responders by providing additional traffic control to help reduce secondary crashes.

“Traffic incidents have real and negative impacts causing delay and inconvenience for road users, increase the incidence of secondary crashes, and increase the cost of transportation and create an economic loss,” said Mark Lowe, Iowa DOT Director. “In traffic incident management every minute counts. For every minute a lane is blocked, the risk of a secondary crash increases by 2.8%.”

To best serve motorists, Highway Helper vehicles are on patrol during normal service hours in high traffic volume corridors looking for motorists needing assistance. In addition, operators in Iowa DOT’s Traffic Management Center utilize hundreds of traffic cameras around the state to identify stranded motorists and dispatch Highway Helpers. However, if you find yourself stranded and in need of assistance, the safest thing to do is call 911. During normal service hours, law enforcement will contact the Traffic Management Center to dispatch a Highway Helper.

Highway Helper services are available:

  • Des Moines
    • Three vehicles patrol I-235, I-80/35, Iowa 5/U.S. 65 bypass, and I-35 between Ankeny and Ames.
    • Service times expanded Sept. 9 to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.
    • One truck running in the Des Moines Metro area on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Cedar Rapids/Iowa City
    • Two vehicles are focused on patrolling I-80 and I-380 corridor. One additional vehicle is on call for incidents in the I-80/380 construction project.
    • Services times expanded Sept. 9 to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Council Bluffs
    • Two vehicles focused on patrolling I-29 and I-80.
    • Services times expanded Sept. 9 to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Quad Cities
    • Two trucks patrolling I-80, I-280, and the I-74 construction zone
    • Service times are 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays

The Iowa DOT’s service expansion is made possible by a new contract with AutoBase, who provides similar services in seven other states. The contract, which was awarded based on competitive bids, is approximately $2.2 million per year for all four service areas.

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