Nebraska travelers someday won’t have to get out their maps and study alternative routes to get to Iowa and Missouri; someday.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is planning for the re-opening of Interstate 29, but the department’s Bob Younie is blatantly honest about when I-29 might re-open.
“We don’t know. The easy answer is, we don’t know,” Younie tells reporters during an Army Corps of Engineers conference call. “But we’re working on a plan for what we can see that’s damage and we will explore what we can’t see that’s covered with water as soon as we can.”
Younie expects the floodwaters to recede in southern Iowa near Hamburg first, allowing road crews to assess damage to I-29 and begin repairs. He expects to find pavement damage on Highway 2 from I-29 to Nebraska City due to the rushing of floodwaters over the road. Scouring is a concern farther north as well, at I-29 and I-680 near Omaha.
“The water is going to eventually go down and as it goes down, we will clear debris. We will repair the roadways. We will investigate,” Younie explains. “We have for quite some time now had a list developed of areas we need to look at. So we have a comprehensive list of areas that were potentially damaged by the flood.”
Missouri transportation officials give a similar assessment. Missouri closed I-29 at Rock Port. All three Missouri River crossings into Nebraska in northern Missouri and southern Iowa have been closed to travelers, forcing them to take alternative routes. Access to Missouri River bridges at Rulo, Brownville and Nebraska City have been closed for months.
In the meantime, Iowa has made a flood detour a bit shorter. Transportation officials have opened a median crossover south of the I-29 interchange with US Highway 34. It will allow drivers to make a U-turn from one interstate ramp to another. The move should save 15 miles.
Re-opening I-29 is the first step toward restoring normal traffic patterns.
“I’m pretty positive that we’ll get I-29 in southern Iowa open this year,” according to Younie, “I won’t say easily, but it will get open.”