Representatives from the Nebraska Department of Transportation provided more information about one major change to the proposed update for the entrance into east Hastings.
Mick Syslo, NDOT roadway design engineer, provided an update during the Hastings City Council work session on Monday about the Hastings Southeast project.
The Hastings Southeast project would reconstruct about 2.38 miles of U.S. Highway 6. The project would start 0.77 mile east of the junction of U.S. Highway 6 and U.S. Highways 281 and 34 (the corner otherwise known as J Street and Burlington Avenue) and would extend north on Elm Avenue, then east on South Street, to a point 0.24 mile east of Showboat Boulevard.
Construction would begin and/or end about 1,000 feet ahead of or beyond the actual project limits to accommodate temporary surfacing for phased construction. The project would include work at adjacent roadways.
Such a project has been discussed in Hastings for decades, and the Hastings City Council previously approved contributing 20% toward the project total. The current total estimated project cost is $35 million.
The project now includes a proposed roundabout at the intersection at Elm Avenue and South Street to allow for fluid traffic movement. Location of the roundabout would be slightly shifted to the southeast of the intersection to avoid impacts to the adjacent land and to Duncan Field at the northwest corner of the intersection.
NDOT representatives brought the idea of the roundabout to the council’s October 2021 work session, but there were a lot of questions at that time about the logistics of a roundabout so close to the BNSF Railway crossing.
NDOT representatives studied train blockages at the Elm Avenue crossing. The crossing averaged eight blockages a day, most of which were two minutes in duration. A few of the average eight blockages lasted five minutes, and one was extended.
Syslo presented a video simulation created by engineering consultant Olsson of a potential five-minute blockage.
During the blockage, vehicles were backed up to the roundabout.
The roundabout also would include a queue leading to the intersection to allow traffic to continue through the intersection even if vehicles are backed up to the roundabout.
The purpose of the proposed project is to reduce the congestion, improve the reliability of the transportation system, perpetuate the mobility of the traveling public, and promote the economic development of the city of Hastings. The need for the project is based on the condition of the existing roadway.
The project recently was scaled back from five lanes to three lanes for most of the corridor.
Funding for the proposed project would come from state and local funding sources and would include Build Nebraska Act funds.
Proposed improvements on this project would include removing the existing pavement and subgrade and constructing doweled concrete pavement with new curb and gutter on a foundation course over a prepared subgrade.
A new storm sewer collection system would be constructed on the urban portion of the project. The project is located within a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. Post-construction Water Quality Treatment Best Management Practices for storm water run-off from new pavements would be incorporated into the design.
New 5-foot sidewalks and retaining walls would be constructed, along with curb ramps built to current federal and state standards.
Additional work would include resurfacing or reconstructing existing surfaced driveways and intersections. Permanent pavement markings would be applied to new surfacing. Traffic signals would be built, and existing street lights would be removed and replaced where warranted.
The proposed project would require the acquisition of additional property rights for construction throughout the project area, including new right-of-way, temporary easements, permanent easements, and control of access. Multiple commercial and residential relocations are anticipated. Access to adjacent properties would be maintained during construction but may be limited at times due to phasing requirements.
Council members expressed concern about the safety of the proposed pedestrian crossings.
Construction now is planned to begin in spring 2025 and be complete by spring 2027.
NDOT is requesting the council take action to approve support for the project, including exploring the possibility of a roundabout.
“Because hopefully you believe it is the right way to go, as well,” Syslo said.
City Director of Engineering Lee Vrooman expressed support for the project Monday.
The council discussed the possibility of taking action on a resolution addressing the project at the Jan. 9, 2023, meeting.
Acting on the resolution gives the state the opportunity to hold a public meeting to make sure the Nebraska Department of Transportation isn’t missing a critical factor.
If there’s a large group that’s against something or for something, Syslo said, it’s hoped the state could accommodate such a request.
“We’ve got to move forward with what we think is right, and we need to try to accommodate requests or impacts,” he said. “Public meetings are related to help share what we believe is right.”