Mixers, Miners and a Rider

Reconstruction slated for the east mixmaster and Rider Corner got us wondering why they have these names. Des Moines is almost unique in naming its interstate highway interchanges after a Sunbeam appliance. (Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, use that moniker too, as does Waterbury, Connecticut.) Only
Des Moines has two of them.

Wherever it began, some clever wag must have coined the term and it caught on. Iowa’s Department of Transportation uses it, and local traffic reporters seem to delight in the name, some abbreviating it to the east or west mix or mixer.

For the east mix, it’s a particularly apt description. From a casual glance at a map, the interchange looks as random as discarded shoelaces. But closer study reveals its intricacies—which engineers hope to simplify this year.

Elsewhere, simpler freeway interchanges are labeled a cloverleaf or sometimes a butterfly junction (both visually descriptive as viewed from above, but less conceptually engaging than mixmasters). Highway planners refer to them as stack (or directional) interchanges.

The name of Rider Corner is easier to pin down. The sweeping curve of 80-35 at its junction with Iowa Highway 141 wraps around the former site of the Rider Coal Mine and the village of Rider, once home to miners, now a bustling bit of Urbandale. Recently, Urbandale officials gave the curve a new name: The Urban Loop. We’ll see if it sticks.

On the subject of highway names, three-digit routes through or around cities, like the 14-mile I-235 here, are called beltways. Ours also has a name that is rarely used—the John MacVicar Freeway, named after two former

Des Moines mayors: John MacVicar Sr., who served several disjointed terms between 1896 and 1928, and John MacVicar Jr., in office from 1942 to 1948.

By the way, I-80 is the second-longest highway in the Interstate network, stretching 2,907 miles between New York City and San Francisco. I-35 is the ninth-longest at 1,569 miles.

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