Omaha is committed to keeping its end of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge open, although Council Bluffs has closed access on the Iowa side, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle said Tuesday.
“That bridge is designed to stay open. It is designed to have people on it. Let's continue in this challenge with nature and keep the bridge open,” Suttle said.
Council Bluffs officials closed access to the bridge on Saturday for several reasons, said Don Gross, city spokesman. Among them:
»Levee protection: The sidewalk to the bridge crosses the levee, and some sightseers had been walking up and down the levee.
»Public safety: Giant cottonwoods that tower near the bridge on the Bluffs side have been weakened by the flooding, Gross said. Officials are concerned that a tree could topple onto the bridge.
»Neighborhood anxiety: Access to the bridge on the Bluffs side is through a residential area, while on the Omaha side access is through a park and office complex. Gross said residents in the Bluffs neighborhood are stressed by flooding and don't need the added hassle of sightseers. “It really didn't help the anxiety or frustration level of the residents,” he said.
Suttle's comments about the bridge came during a city briefing Tuesday, where officials said Omaha already has spent $3.9 million battling the flood.
Later, while touring levees in Omaha and Plattsmouth, Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy said the state is working with local officials and Nebraska's U.S. senators to expedite federal assistance.
Some towns are still waiting on assistance from last year's snowstorms and floods, so the communities face a cash-flow crunch funding this fight, Sheehy said.
Marty Grate of the Omaha Public Works Department said the levees protecting Omaha are holding up well.
“It's more of what you don't see,” he said. There has been no cracking and no sloughing, and boils have not been a significant problem on the dry side.
Grate also said city officials hope federal aid comes soon.
“Cash flow is a concern. The city doesn't have unlimited resources. But we can't afford to not spend in order to protect this city,” Grate said.
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VIDEO: We asked tourists on the bridge what they thought of the Iowa side closing and whether or not they felt safe on the structure.