After nearly 20 years of political maneuvering, discussion and debate, the U.S. Highway 34 – Missouri River Bridge is finally going to happen.
That’s the word from the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).
“We’re looking at starting to acquire property in earnest starting late this summer,” said IDOT district engineer John Selmer. “You’ll probably see hard construction occurring in 2011 and it will take us until the end of 2013 to complete the whole project.”
The 3,182-foot by 86-foot bridge would cross the Missouri River in western Mills County and link Highway 34 with U.S. Highway 75 south of Offutt Air Force in Sarpy County, Neb. The bridge would provide two 12-foot wide lanes in each direction with 6-foot wide inside and 12-foot wide outside shoulders and a concrete median barrier. The project will require a redesign of the Highway 34 – Interstate 29 interchange and a paved extension of the highway west and northwest of the interstate overpass.
Earlier this month, more than 100 Mills County residents attended a public hearing in Glenwood to learn more about the project. Engineering consultants and IDOT representatives were on hand to share information, answer questions and solicit input from those in attendance.
“The purpose of this is to show the final design of the U.S. 34 reconstruction project and new Missouri River bridge,” Selmer said. “We also want to get the public’s input about the project.”
The project will carry a price tag of approximately $100 million, with 80 percent of the funding coming from the federal government and 20 percent from the two states.
Selmer pointed out that the project isn’t being funded by the economic stimulus plan recently passed in Congress.
“This isn’t what we call a shovel-ready project because it’s quite large in scope,” he said. “Basically, what we’re seeing on the stimulus is that they want at least 50 percent obligated within 90 days. There’s no way we’ll do that.
“Where it does benefit us is that we are accelerating projects, so it would free up some dollars in later years. Being a direct stimulus project, no. But, we can see some benefits because of the stimulus.”
When told that some people have become skeptical about the bridge actually being built, Selmer said he’s just as anxious to see construction begin as bridge proponents from Mills County are.
“I’d say it’s a long time coming and I’m ready to smell the dirt moving out there,” said Selmer. “It’s going to happen and I think we’ll all be celebrating when we have that bridge’s opening ceremony.”
Glenwood banker Larry Winum, a member of the Southwest Iowa Coalition and a longtime proponent of the bridge project, said he’s encouraged to see the project moving forward.
“It seems to be on track,” Winum said. “The key is to always get on the five-year plan. All five years are committed by the DOT.
“It (bridge) should be good for economic development.”