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Bridge To The Future

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Dry Weather Has Aided Highway 34, Mo. River Bridge Construction

By Joe Foreman, Editor

There’s an upside to the unusually dry weather conditions Mills County has experienced in 2012 – significant progress is being made on the U.S. Highway 34 expansion / Missouri River bridge project in western Mills County.

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“Contractors were able to get a lot of work done with the good weather,” Iowa Department of Transportation project engineer Scott Nixon said last week while speaking to members of the Mills County Economic Development Foundation.

Nixon said Missouri River flooding in 2011 delayed initial grading work on the Iowa side of the river, but the project has been moving forward at a steady pace in 2012.

The IDOT is overseeing the Highway 34 portion of the project on the Iowa side of the river, working in conjunction with the Nebraska Department of Roads, the agency responsible for carrying out road work in the Cornhusker State. Des Moines-based Jensen Construction is the general contractor for the Missouri River bridge construction.

Pavement work west of the Highway 34 – Interstate 29 interchange and preliminary work for the eastbound lanes of the I-29 overpass are the most visible aspects of the project being completed in 2012. Work near the interchange will really heat up in 2013, Nixon said.

“2013 is going to be a busy year out there,” he said. “As will 2014.”

Nixon said paving of the eastbound lanes of the I-29 overpass will be completed in 2013. Once that happens, both eastbound and westbound traffic will utilize the eastbound lanes while work commences on the westbound overpass. Nebraska experienced fewer flood-related delays in 2011 and is expected to have its road work between the river and U.S. Highway 75 completed in 2013.

In 2014, work on westbound lanes of the overpass and the redesigned H-34/
I-29 interchange is scheduled to be carried out. The final and most significant piece of the construction puzzle could be completed in late 2014 – the four-lane bridge over the Missouri River.

Jensen Construction project engineer Landon Streit said crews building the bridge are making visible progress on both sides of the river and in the water. Streit said crews weren’t allowed to work in the water from Feb. 1 – June 30 because of regulations protecting the pallid sturgeon, an endangered species of fish found in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Streit said the hot summer temperatures required some of the concrete pours to be conducted at night and in many situations, ice was added to the concrete mix.

“We mixed in about 40 pounds of ice for every cubic yard of concrete,” Streit said.

When completed, Streit said the bridge will be 3,280 feet long and stand about 65 feet above the surface. Eleven of the bridge’s 17 piers will be on the Iowa side of the structure, four will be in Nebraska and two will be directly over the water.