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End of US highway 218

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Photo credits: Monte Castleman; Jason Hancock; Jeff Morrison; Alex Nitzman; Ben Prusia; me

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1926-1938 Owatonna, MN (near Vinton, IA)
1938-1951 Owatonna, MN (near Keokuk, IA)
1951-present Owatonna, MN Keokuk, IA

US 218 was an original 1926 route. It's a bit irregular in that it's a north/south route, but designated with an east/west number. "US 265" would've made more sense, and apparently there was a 1927 map of Minnesota that actually showed it that way. Regardless, it was the US 218 designation that prevailed. Its original south end was at US 30 south of Vinton IA. The photo below is looking south on US 218 at US 30 (Vinton is about 13 miles behind the camera):

Morrison, May 2002

The designation used to end here, but now it's signed east with US 30 to Cedar Rapids before heading south again through Iowa City to Keokuk. The green sign in the distance says 19 miles to Cedar Rapids (left) and 29 miles to Tama (right).

Originally the other end of US 218 was in Owatonna MN (though in a different location than the current terminus). Most likely US 65 was routed on Oak Avenue, and US 218 would've begun to the east on Main Street, co-signed with US 14. If so, then the photo below shows the spot:

Castleman, spring 2004

We're looking north on Oak, which was US 65. Eastbound US 14 came towards the camera on Oak, then continued right on Main. Also to the right would've been the north beginning of US 218. Another view of this intersection is available on Jeff Morrison's page.

According to Steve Riner's page, in 1934 there were a couple proposals to extend the US 218 designation north either to Brainerd or to the Fargo area, but apparently the road was never signed any farther north than St. Paul (you can view photos from there on this page). That would've lasted for only about a year anyway, before the north end was once again returned to its former location in Owatonna (above).

In 1938, the other end of US 218 was extended further south. It joined US 30 east to Cedar Rapids, where it took over for what had been the southern half of US 161. It's too bad the decision was made to eliminate the US 161 designation, instead of eliminating the US 218 designation: this would've been a prime opportunity to give the route a number more appropriate for its north-south orientation. Anyway: for about 20 years, the south end of US 218 was at the same place where US 161 used to end, which was at the bridge over the Des Moines River a few miles west of Keokuk. For more info and photos, please view my US 161 page.

Jeff theorizes that it was in the 1950s (after US 136 had been commissioned) that US 218 was truncated to its current terminus in downtown Keokuk (pronounced KEE-uh-kuk). Have you ever wanted to visit somewhere, just from looking at it on a map, because you imagine it must be an interesting place? I had always thought about Keokuk that way: southernmost point in Iowa, a stonesthrow from two other states, at the confluence of two great rivers... I got my chance to visit in 2002, and wasn't disappointed: it's a graceful town with lots of character and an interesting setting, perched on the bluff between the two rivers. Check out my map - maybe you'll want to go too...

The shot below is looking southeast on Main Street; the next intersection is 7th Street:

Morrison, Oct. 2005

Jeff reports that many assemblies in the state are being replaced, and mounted on new metal signposts - here's what that same assembly used to look like:

Hancock, 1998

We're on US 218/Business US 61. Obviously the US 218 designation ends here; it's southbound Business 61 that turns right. Also to the right (but not marked on this assembly) is westbound US 136. Eastbound US 136 is straight ahead. In the background, you can barely see the assembly giving info on this. It's changed a bit since then, too - here's the current version:

Morrison, Oct. 2005

That's at the intersection where US 218 actually ends. The photo below is looking northeast on 7th, from the perspective of eastbound US 136/northbound Business US 61:

Hancock, 1998

The marker in the center is for the Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi from its source at Lake Itasca MN to its mouth near New Orleans. Also to the left is the south beginning of US 218; that's indicated on another assembly ahead:

Morrison, Oct. 2005

That's on 7th at Main. One more perspective: below we're looking northwest on Main, or westbound on US 136:

me, Oct. 2002

Jeff reports that assembly was gone as of Dec. 2006. US 136 takes a left ahead on 7th, which after about 3 miles crosses the Des Moines River and enters Missouri. Though unmarked on that assembly, northbound Business 61 comes in from the left and continues straight ahead on Main. Also ahead is the south beginning of US 218 - what used to be the first sign is shown below:

me, Oct. 2002

That assembly has been replaced with the one shown below:

Morrison, Dec. 2006

By the mid-1960s, when I-35 had been built through the Owatonna area, US 14/218 traffic was rerouted onto a bypass south of town. Since then, the north end of US 218 has been at I-35's interchange 40. No "End" sign, but here's the endpoint:

Castleman, summer 2002

That was heading west at the north end of US 218. If you went straight, it was a sharp curve to southbound I-35, and by 2006 there was a yellow "30 MPH" strip added to that left panel. In 2012, significant changes were made at this interchange. Most notably, US 14 now continues straight ahead, along a new expressway segment (instead of joining northbound I-35).

The photo below was heading north on I-35 at the north beginning of US 218:

Castleman, summer 2002

That sign has changed, too: there is no longer any reference to US 218 on these signs. The only mention now is a single sign that instructs US 218 traffic to follow US 14 east. For some reason, when the US 14 expressway was extended west from here, MNDoT decided to de-emphasize US 218. They haven't asked AASHTO to truncate US 218, but the changes to signage in this area make it look like they want to eliminate the 3-mile duplex with US 14. Heading the opposite direction (south on I-35), the exit for the beginning of US 218 used to look like this...

Nitzman, Apr. 2007

...but again, that has changed as well. If you take that exit, this is the how the confirming assembly used to look:

Morrison, July 2006

It's actually US 14 (not US 218) that's designated as the LIW Highway in Minnesota (and South Dakota too), because that road happens to go past a few LIW historic sites. That assemby has since been replaced - now it says "TO US 218". See the overpass in the distance? That's County 45 (and historic US 65). The marker on the far side of that interchange says "South US 218", and then after another couple miles US 218 splits off from US 14. When you're heading the opposite direction (west on US 14/218), this sign is posted at County 45:

Hancock, May 2012

Kind of a strange location for that sign, considering that the official endpoint is at I-35, a mile ahead. Maybe the thought was that this would reduce sign clutter at the interchange...? But then, why duplex US 218 with US 14 at all? Why not just end it at the junction with US 14?

Again, more photos from this endpoint are available on Jeff Morrison's page.