Nebraska City ranks as the 22nd most populated city in the state of Nebraska with an estimated census of 7,347 for 2016, but ranks much higher on a list ranking cities according to the number of bridges maintained.
With 15 total bridges, Nebraska City ranks in the top five.
Each bridge carries a responsibility that, for most people in Nebraska City, wasn’t fully realized until the summer of 2015, when the city determined that the 4th Corso viaduct, the most traveled bridge in the city for east and west traffic, would need to be closed.
That bridge remains closed while a new structure is constructed with a completion date of 2019.
Marty Stovall, construction and facilities manager for Nebraska City, said it’s easy to take bridges for granted, adding that the time that bridges are noticed is when residents have to find an alternate route around a closed bridge. Although it seemed sudden, the 4th Corso viaduct’s closure and its replacement had been discussed for a number of years prior to the decision to close.
The imminence of said closure was not known.
The discovery of a hole in the deck of the bridge in the summer of 2015 led to a repair order and the discovery of problems that could not be addressed.
The bridge had been deteriorating faster than what was anticipated.
Grayson Path, city administrator for Nebraska City, said bridge inspections had been done on a regular schedule going back many years.
It was the detail that was missing.
Path said inspectors use a format that examines the bridge by following certain requirements but that examination doesn’t go in-depth.
To remedy the situation and to get information on every bridge, Path said the city worked with its engineering partner, JEO Consulting Group Inc., to fill in the details and to get a complete picture of the health of each bridge in the city.
This move put Nebraska City’s municipal government in better position to know the potential costs and timelines for repairs and replacement plans for all the bridges.
It also allowed for the city to put itself in position to utilize and to obtain funding from state, federal and any other source.
It was a funding search, spearheaded by Path, Stovall and Street Commissioner Vic Johns that discovered state and federal funds which allowed the city of Nebraska City to reduce a potential share of the 4th Corso viaduct replacement costs from in the order of millions to, potentially, under one million in cost.
Path said the City of Nebraska City receives funds from the Highway Allocation Program, the Surface Transportation Program (STP) and the Highway Bridge Buy Back program (HBBP).
The Highway Allocationi program, received annually, provided $750K this year for certain defined usages. And that fund will go up slightly next year, as adjusted by the state of Nebraska, to be in tune with inflationary pressures.
No matter where program funds are obtained, Path said the funds must be used for the defined purposes. If they’re not used for the defined purpose, the funds may be taken away.
And the only way to allocate funds for a strictly defined purpose, in this case bridges, Path said, is to have defined plan, like the one the city has made with JEO.
“We want to get ahead of our maintenance before another bridge goes down,” said Path.
Having a plan has already been helpful.
City officials have identified the North Table Creek bridge near the Old Norman’s Grocery Store on North 11th Street as a structure in need of replacement.
Because city officials knew it needed to be replaced, a plan was generated to close the bridge at a time that would create less stress, i.e. after the city’s major festival in the fall, with replacement to be completed by late spring or early summer of 2019.
All other bridges are being monitored with an eye toward maintenance so that problems can be identified and corrected before they become major.
The bridge over South Table Creek on South 1st Street is being monitored closely since it’s receiving increased traffic due to the closure of the 4th Corso viaduct.
Stovall said the bridge will require some maintenance as a result.
Another bridge, the Timber Bridge on Steinhart Park Road, will receive some work this summer as a bridge inspection revealed the need for an overlay on the structure. That inspection also determined that the overall health of the bridge is sound. For a specialty bridge that’s going on 20 years old, that was a reassuring to discover.
Stovall said the South 3rd Street bridge was identified as needing repair also but that the issues can be addressed without the need for the structure to be replaced.
Further bridge maintenance will be anticipated by its inclusion in the city’s one and six year road plan.
And Stovall said the city crews do maintenance on bridges as well, with day-to-day tasks like flushing salt deposits from the decks.
That may sound simple, but it’s a big deal.
“Water and salt are the enemies of roads,” said Stovall.
Following the closure of the 4th Corso viaduct back in 2015, city officials stressed and probably lost hours of sleep wondering if they had done everything they could to avoid such a move.
These days, with a plan in place, the city officials, and the residents of Nebraska City, can rest a bit easier.