Nearly 20 years in the making, the ground-breaking ceremony for the Highway 34 - Missouri River bridge will finally take place Thursday afternoon.
A 2 p.m. ceremony, open to the public, is planned west of the Interstate 29 - Highway 34 interchange near the Bluff View Motel. Elected officials and dignitaries from both sides of the river have accepted invitations to attend the ground-breaking, including U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, U.S. Rep. Steve King and Lt. Gov. Patty Judge from Iowa. The Nebraska delegation will include Gov. Dave Heineman.
Glenwood banker Larry Winum, a proponent of the bridge project for the past two decades, will also take part in the program.
“I thought we would have had it (bridge) done by now,” Winum said last week. “It’s taken a lot longer than it should have. It should have taken 10 years, but instead it’s taken 20 years.”
The four-lane bridge project carries a projected price tag of $137.8 million. Eighty percent of the funding is coming from federal tax dollars, with Iowa and Nebraska each kicking in 10 percent. When completed, the bridge will link western Mills County with Sarpy County, Neb., south of Offutt Air Force Base.
The bridge will be two lanes in each direction with shoulders designed to accommodate bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles.
The project will result in an upgrade of the Interstate 29 - Highway 34 interchange and six miles of new four-lane Highway 34 access.
With the new partial clover-leaf interchange, southbound interstate motorists wanting to head east on Highway 34 and northbound I-29 traffic wanting to head west on 34 will no longer have to stop and cross Highway 34 traffic. The turning traffic will pass under Highway 34 and come back around on the circular exit ramp.
Following Thursday’s ground-breaking, work will commence with the construction of reinforced concrete box culverts.
Next spring, earthwork will begin, including the bridge approach embankment. Work on the eastbound bridge over Interstate 29 is scheduled to start in the fall of 2011.
The goal of the Iowa Department of Transpor-tation (IDOT) is to have the bridge open for traffic in the fall of 2013. If the weather is uncooperative and/or if contractors on the Iowa and Nebraska sides of the river are not able to complete their work at the same time, the highway and bridge’s opening could be pushed back to the spring of 2014.
As part of the project, more than 40 acres of wetlands at the Oreapolis Wetland Mitigation Site along the Platte River in Cass County, Neb., will be restored.
On the Iowa side of the river, the IDOT has purchased a 171-acre conservation easement. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will manage the property for improvement of natural ecology at the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers.