Iowa DOT expanding hours, locations for "Highway Helper" program

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AMES, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Transportation is expanding a roadside assistance program in certain metropolitan areas of the state with an overall goal of keeping traffic flowing in the face of disruptions.

A view of Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids from an Iowa DOT traffic camera on Wilson Avenue on September 11, 2019 (Courtesy: Iowa Department of Transportation)

The DOT said the service, called Highway Helper, will now run Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. in its original areas of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Des Moines, and Council Bluffs. The Des Moines metro area also has service on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Two Highway Helper vehicles will now be assigned to the Quad Cities area, also running from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.

“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,” Mark Lowe, Iowa DOT Director, said, in a statement. “In traffic incident management every minute counts. For every minute a lane is blocked, the risk of a secondary crash increases by 2.8%.”

The Highway Helper addresses this risk by patrolling the mentioned areas, seeking vehicles that have run out of fuel, have a flat, or need a jump start, among other potential needs. The DOT's traffic cameras are also used to direct the vehicles to spots with stranded motorists.

The DOT recommends motorists in need of assistance on highways to call 911 rather than wait for help. Law enforcement will arrange for a response.