For many living on the west side of Niobrara, the last four months have been strenuous to say the least. With a 15 minute drive turned into 2 hour commute, many have lost jobs, lost livestock or crops, put land up for sale or taken to riding a boat across the river everyday just to get to work. The village itself, which relies heavily on tourism during the summer, has had little out of town visitors leaving many businesses hurting.
However, they can find some relief in seeing the dedicated NDOT crew working tirelessly on the temporary bridges made for the Morman Canal Bridge and the Niobrara River Bridge that were washed out during the March Floods.
Nebraska Department of Transportation held a meeting in Niobrara on June 27. They are sticking to their August deadline for the temporary bridge and have set the permanent bridge’s goal of completion at fall of 2020.
This project includes the removal and replacement of the bridge structure over the Mormon Canal, the rehabilitation of the bridge over the Niobrara River, and the construction of approximately 1,350 feet of new roadway from just west of the Mormon Canal Bridge to the Niobrara River Bridge.
NDOT officials know the public is ready to see these projects finished. According to them, the flood response projects are not simple repairs. They say the flooding caused serious changes to the stream banks and caused underwater damage to bridge structures leaving some unstable. Engineers have conducted assessments and are working with contractors to find the most efficient ways to make repairs. The process to design, contract and build these repairs has been iterative and takes time.
NDOT is also currently evaluating options for previously scheduled projects. Flood damaged roads take precedence. NDOT will prioritize projects accordingly as much as resources will allow.
As of June 27, the State of Nebraska and local agencies received $25 million in federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief (ER) program. Additional federal funds may be available to lessen the financial burden on the State of Nebraska.