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Iowa State Patrol wants to name two Johnson County bridges for fallen officers

Gregg Hennigan, CR Gazette –

The Iowa State Patrol wants to name two interstate bridges in Johnson County after area troopers who died in the line of duty decades ago.

The proposal is part of a new statewide effort to honor the 10 troopers who have died in the line of duty in the agency’s 77-year history.

In Johnson County, one bridge is on Interstate 80 and the other I-380, and the busy highways would help provide “some recognition for those guys for what they gave up for Iowa,” said Sgt. Dave Willis of the State Patrol’s District 11, which covers Johnson, Linn, Benton, Tama, Iowa and Poweshiek counties.

The State Patrol is asking the Johnson County Board of Supervisors for a resolution or letter of approval in support of the request. The supervisors will discuss the issue at an informal meeting Thursday.

Steve Gent, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Traffic and Safety, which is overseeing the process, said he expects all 10 troopers to have bridges named in their honor and for the signs to be installed this summer. Cass County supervisors two weeks ago expressed approval for the naming of two bridges for fallen troopers there, according to news reports.

“This is something everybody supports,” Gent said.

The State Patrol wants to name the I-380 bridge over the Iowa River in northern Johnson County after Trooper Harold DeGear, who was struck and killed by a vehicle in 1954 while he was standing behind another car and writing the driver a ticket.

The bridge over the Iowa River on I-80 just east of First Avenue exit in Coralville would be named for Trooper Allen Nieland. He was killed in 1990 when the aircraft he was in while searching for a robbery suspect crashed into a field near the intersection of I-80 and U.S. Highway 151.

That accident happened in Iowa County, but Willis said Nieland, a friend of his, worked I-80 in Johnson County a lot and was active in the community.

“He was a Johnson County guy. That was home for him,” he said.

Iowa Code allows for the naming of highways after people, and the DOT has determined that applies to bridges too, Gent said. The State Patrol initiative came about this year after the DOT was contacted about it by a couple of legislators who had been troopers, he said.

The signs marking the bridges will be 6.5 feet wide and 3 feet high and include the State Patrol shield. They will have a brown background and white lettering that says something along the lines of “Trooper Allen Nieland Memorial Bridge.”

A list of troopers killed in the line of duty can be found here.

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