There wasn’t a crushingly tragic headline. There were no people hurt, no cars wrecked, thank goodness.
Instead, there was this jaw-dropping headline on the front page of the local newspaper: Old overpass to close at end of May.
City officials made a difficult decision when they decided to close the old overpass, a former entrance to the city and a landmark.
City officials have closed the 16th Street viaduct for at least a year because it is near a critical point. A Nebraska Department of Transportation inspection, followed by an engineering firm inspection, prompted the decision.
Right now, the overpass is still safe to drive. However, recent extreme weather has expedited the decay of this old structure and keeping it open much longer wasn’t worth the risk. Some of the signs of wear — in the form of cracks and crumbling concrete — are quite visible.
Even so, some community members may have found the change a little upsetting due to the disruption of traffic patterns. Residents on the east side of Hastings, especially, use the overpass. It directly connects some of east Hastings to many businesses on the north side of town.
And, according to estimates, the cost of fixing or replacing the overpass is going to be quite high.
Rehabilitation is estimated to cost $2.275 million with a service life of 30 years. Full replacement is estimated to cost $5.7 million with a service life of 75 years.
Permanent closure, which would reroute traffic to one of the nearest open railroad crossings, is estimated to cost $500,000.
Because the bridge is an alternate route, removing it would likely lead to higher traffic on U.S. Highway 281.
City officials don’t yet have a concrete answer about the future of the old overpass. Big decisions like this take time.
But, for the next year at least, they should get an idea of just how much traffic flow and traffic patterns change while the old overpass is closed.
Residents, too, have a say in this. Those who have opinions, concerns or ideas for this uncertainty surrounding the future of old overpass should attend upcoming meetings or, at least, share their thoughts with those charged with making a decision.
The city created an email account for that very purpose — email@example.com — and, as of Monday, 32 comments have been submitted to that address.
If anything is certain in all of this it is that the city cares about its residents and the potential that a crumbling structure has for causing them harm. We applaud city officials for preventing any possibility of disaster.
That is a headline no one wants to see on the front page of newspaper.