HAMBURG, Iowa (AP) — Two new bridges are planned for a flood-prone highway low spot near a Missouri River bridge that connects southeast Nebraska with southwest Iowa, an Iowa highway official said.
The Iowa Transportation Department will begin taking bids next month for construction of eastbound and westbound bridges for a section of Iowa Highway 2. The highway runs from north-south Interstate 29 west to the river bridge and across to Nebraska City.
The highway reopened in May after being shut down for 56 days because of flooding that followed an upriver levee breach in March. Drivers were forced to use a temporary lane made of permeable rock and other material. But that section eventually became submerged again.
The transportation department official, Scott Suhr, told the Omaha World-Herald that the new bridges would help maintain traffic if floodwater were to spill again from the Missouri River.
“Once the water gets outside the Missouri River, it (would allow) the water to travel underneath the bridges and not overtop the roadway,” Suhr said.
Highway officials also intend to study whether more of the highway should be raised to prevent damage from any future floods.
The concept of adding bridges to the highway has been in the works for years, probably since the Missouri River flooding in 2011 also inundated the area, he said.
The latest flooding “pretty much accelerated the whole discussion,” Suhr said.
Building the two 1,100-foot-long (335-meter-long) bridges could cost $30 million to $50 million in state and federal funds.
The highway flooding has caused headaches for people who work in Iowa but live in Nebraska, and vice versa. Dan Mauk, the executive director of the Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corp., said many Nebraska residents and business owners have written letters to the Iowa Transportation Department, encouraging officials to expedite the bridges project.
Suhr said construction could start as soon as August but probably wouldn’t be finished until fall 2021.