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New Iowa license plates arrive

Steve Gravelle, CR Gazette –

Iowans will start receiving new license plates next week, not that many will notice.

With the oldest current plates now 15 years old, the Iowa Department of Transportation will launch a 10-year replacement cycle with May’s registration renewal. The new plates have the same town-and-countryside landscape design, although the letters and numbers will switch from blue to black for better visibility.

Instead of issuing all new plates at once, the department will implement a “rolling” replacement cycle, replacing old tags as vehicles’ registration comes due:

This year: Plates originally issued in 1996 and 1997. 2013: Plates issued from 1998 through 2003. 2014: Plates issued in 2004. After 2014, plates will be issued following the 10-year cycle.

The state last replaced its plates, then the old white-on-blue design, in 1997.

“At that time they replaced them all within a one-year period,” said LaVonne Short, executive officer of the transportation department’s Office of Vehicle Services.

Short said vehicle owners will receive notices that their plates are up for replacement along with their annual renewal notices. The notices are mailed 30 days before each vehicle’s renewal deadline.

“We’re really starting with the May renewals, but they can start getting them in April,” Short said.

The department will charge $3 to mail the new plates, an expense owners can save by picking them up at their county treasurer’s office.

As for the old plates, the transportation department encourages recycling, but you can also nail them to your garage wall.

“They can keep their old plates, but they’re not going to be valid,” Short said. The new plates will come with the new registration stickers, she said.

The department also will start issuing license numbers in a new alphanumeric sequence — three letters followed by three numbers, a reverse from the present pattern. Short said the alphanumeric possibilities in the current sequence have been exhausted by the state’s 4.1 million registered vehicles.

Iowa license plates are made by state prison inmates, Short confirmed.

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