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The 16th Street viaduct is pictured Sept. 29.

After an attempt to save the 16th Street viaduct failed by 50 votes during the general election, members of the Hastings City Council approved a resolution providing for its demolition.

Council members voted 8-0 during their meeting Monday to approve the resolution declaring an urgent public safety measure relating to the viaduct.

There were 5,193 votes during the general election in favor of issuing no more than $12.5 million to rebuild the viaduct, compared to 5,243 against.

“The people have spoken,” Mayor Corey Stutte said. “I think it’s pretty clear that it’s time to move on.”

Council members approved a resolution on Nov. 25, 2019, declaring the 16th Street viaduct to be a public safety matter due to its deterioration.

“Here we are a year later, and it’s time to move forward as a community,” Stutte said.

The viaduct has been closed since May 2019 because of concern about its deteriorating condition. Many Hastings residents expressed interest in having the structure repaired and reopened.

The group Hastings Citizens with a Voice collected about 2,700 signatures in an effort to reverse the council’s decision last year to raze the bridge. The issue to rebuild the bridge was placed on the general election ballot.

Later, Hastings Citizens with a Voice members expressed the sentiment that $12.5 million was too high of an amount for the project. Group members also objected to the use of the word “rebuild” for the project, as opposed to “repair.”

Engineering firm Olsson provided the city with estimated costs for the future of the viaduct at the time of the 85-year-old structure’s closure, and updated those costs later in 2019.

The figure that is important to Hastings Citizens with a Voice is $3.1 million, which was the estimate from Olsson to repair the east abutment, remove the southern span, wrap pillars and repair extension contraction joints.

Engineering Specialists Inc. of Omaha, which the city hired to do a condition assessment and forensic structural analysis of the 16th Street viaduct, determined the viaduct couldn’t be repaired, however.

According to ESI’s report, the estimated cost for replacing the existing 570-foot-long, 26-foot-wide, two-lane bridge with a 590-foot-long, 38-foot-wide, four-lane bridge would be between $6.838 million and $7.062 million.

Including engineering and architectural design of $512,857 to $529,672.50 — based on a 7.5% fee for the total cost of construction — ESI estimates the project would cost around $7.5 million.

ESI President Anthony Siahpush told the council in July that if the viaduct piers were renovated and repaired, the superstructure to the deck would have to be moved. But touching the superstructure may prompt the state of Nebraska to require the width of the bridge be brought into compliance with the current code. That would make the repair option not feasible.

“I know the proponents think there are a lot of people who want the viaduct saved, but on the other hand the measure failed,” City Administrator Dave Ptak said. “There are probably just as many, and in this case more, that decided they didn’t want the bridge to be rebuilt. We put a ceiling on it at $12.5 million. Obviously everything we would’ve done had to pass with some degree of public scrutiny. We would’ve had to have bids. We would’ve had to have plans and specifications. There was no intent to spend up to $12.5 million if we didn’t have to. I thought it was kind of interesting that the proponents that wanted to save it actually campaigned to vote no when in fact voting yes would’ve given them what they wanted with an oversight of how the money is spent.”

Stutte read a portion of a letter given to the city on Nov. 6 by three representatives from engineering firm Olsson: Ross Barron, bridge technical leader; Tyler Cramer, project engineer; and Matt Rief, vice president.

The letter stated it is Olsson’s recommendation “that the bridge be demolished and if deemed necessary through a traffic study, reconstruction of a modern bridge structure at the same alignment, or at another location to better benefit the city of Hastings.”

Councilman Chuck Rosenberg, who represents Ward 3 and central Hastings, who previously opposed demolishing the viaduct, said he voted during the general election in favor of rebuilding the structure.

“I did receive a lot of calls from constituents that were confused,” he said. “They said they thought a vote against was to repair the viaduct. I had to assure them that was never the case, a vote against was to tear down the viaduct. This resolution would be discussed regardless of how the vote went because the viaduct would have to be torn down if it was going to be rebuilt. It didn’t pass. It was close, but it didn’t pass.”

No timetable was discussed Monday about tearing down the viaduct. Rosenberg said it won’t happen quickly.

“I know it seems like the public is going to say, ‘You guys are rushing into this,’ ” he said. “It’s going to take months. Because we have to deal with the railroad and we have to get bids. You have to start somewhere. Unfortunately, the 50 votes it lost by — it lost by 50 votes. So the public has spoken on it. I think the council feels we need to do something, and so the resolution is in front of us tonight.”

Councilman Scott Snell, who represents Ward 4 and east Hastings, also had voted previously against tearing down the structure.

“I didn’t realize a viaduct could be such a rollercoaster,” he said. “My constituents wanted me to save it, get it fixed, but I’m an evidentiary kind of guy. When I saw the latest report that was done on it and the core sampling and the drilling sampling and the ground penetration sampling, I’ve said this before: I changed my mind. I’m allowed to do that. I’m flexible enough to do that.”

Snell said some of the people who wanted to save the viaduct have since come to him, before the election, and said it’s time to take it down.

“I’ve been trying to be a good listener and a good sounding board,” he said. “I feel in my heart of hearts, and logically, with the evidence that’s been provided, that it is the best course for us to tear it down.”

In other business Monday, the council:

  • Unanimously approved the Class C liquor license for B&R Stores doing business as Allen’s No. 32 at 1115 W. Second St.
  • Unanimously approved the manager application of Robert G. Steider in connection with the Class C liquor license for B&R Stores doing business as Allen’s No. 32 at 1115 W. Second St.
  • Unanimously approved the conditional use permit for a creative sign for property commonly addressed as 109 N. Burlington Ave.
  • Unanimously approved the one- and six-year Street Improvement Plan for the city of Hastings.
  • Unanimously approved the release of easement for Westbrook Village 15th Addition at lot 4.
  • Unanimously approved the release of easement for Westbrook Village 11th Subdivision at the northeast corner of lot 3.
  • Unanimously approved the final plat for C&R Subdivision.
  • Unanimously approved a slate of board and commission reappointments, including Ethan Stout and David Glass to the City Tree Board, both with terms from Nov. 15, 2020, to Nov. 15, 2023; Ryan Kavan to the Board of Appeals from Nov. 1, 2020, to Nov. 1, 2025; Tim Jacobi, Jeb Brandt, Bob Murphy, John Hamburger and Roy DeMars to the Business Improvement Board, all with terms from Nov. 1, 2020, to Nov. 1, 2023.
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