Interstate 29 in southern Iowa and northern Missouri has been closed for nearly four months and soon will re-open. But it will be a while before Nebraska motorists will be able to get to the interstate.
Iowa Department of Transportation Engineer Bob Younie says he will open I-29 soon, even if only two of the four lanes are drivable.
“And so we will accept less than the four lanes that are there right now, just to get folks moving,” Younie tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And we’re willing to do that other work under traffic.”
I-29 held out as floodwaters rose this summer along the Missouri River. The break of the Hamburg, Iowa levee did it in. The breach sent floodwaters over the interstate and heavily damaged Highway 2, which connects I-29 with the Missouri River bridge at Nebraska City. A bid letting for grading and resurfacing Highway 2 has been postponed until October 12th. Younie says he would like to re-open Highway 2 by November 20th and will have incentives placed in the contract to beat that deadline. The levee breach also closed two other roads Nebraska residents use to get to I-29.
Missouri Department of Transportation spokeswoman Melissa Black, who works in the St. Joseph office, says work is underway to repair the damage floodwaters did to Route 136 at Brownville and Route 159 at Rulo. Black says Missouri River floodwaters ripped up pavement and scoured huge holes in the two highways. Three scour holes have been repaired on Route 136, but a fourth hole, nicknamed “The Beast” by MoDOT engineers, remains a flooded, gaping obstacle to I-29. It is estimated to be 480 feet wide and 65 feet deep. Route 159 hasn’t sustained as much damage. MoDOT hopes to have them open and traffic flowing to and from I-29 by mid-December.
Blacks says MoDOT is well aware that the damage has greatly disrupted commercial, commuter and personal traffic.
“It is one of our absolute top concerns and that’s why we really have placed such a big priority on getting these routes open just as quickly and safely as we can,” Black tells us.
Black says contractors are running night and day to repair the two routes.