Travel on Interstate 80 in eastern Nebraska should be nothing short of smooth sailing by the end of the year.
A $440 million project to widen and upgrade I-80 between Omaha and Lincoln is expected to wrap up by early November, the Nebraska Department of Roads said.
The improvements will put the speed limit at 75 mph on the entire I-80 stretch between Omaha and Lincoln.
The last phase of the long project — it began in 2001 — was to begin late Sunday night, weather permitting, in the Lincoln area, said Bob Sanburn, Roads Department project manager.
The project has included interchange and bridge upgrades, and widening I-80 from two to three lanes for eastbound as well as westbound traffic.
“It shortens the travel time and improves mobility between Omaha and Lincoln,” Mary Jo Oie, a Roads Department spokeswoman, said of the improvements.
Some of the project has been 90 percent federally funded and 10 percent state-funded, she said, and some has been 80 percent federal and 20 percent state.
The last phase of the I-80 project, at a cost of about $22 million, will take place generally from the Waverly interchange to just west of Lincoln, said Sanburn.
The work involves building four new bridges, three new westbound I-80 lanes and a new I-80 westbound access loop from U.S. Highway 6 near Waverly, Sanburn said. Hawkins Construction Co. of Omaha is the prime contractor.
The four new bridges, Sanburn said, will be over Highway 6 at the Waverly interchange, two smaller structures west of Waverly and an overpass at Salt Creek at about 84th Street.
Motorists will face detours, lane restrictions and speed limits of 55 mph during the next eight months.
Construction of the new bridge over Highway 6 is scheduled to start today.
To make way for the bridge, Highway 6 will be closed at the Waverly interchange and traffic will be detoured while the westbound lanes of the old bridge are removed, Sanburn said.
Oie said the I-80 widening may someday be extended west of Lincoln, to York. The Roads Department is working on an engineering study of that possibility.
The start of that work would depend on funding, she said.
“In very general terms at this time,'' Oie said, “the three-lane reconstruction (eastbound and westbound) may cost an average of between $6.5 million and $7 million per mile.''
That cost is not “a detailed estimate by any means,'' she added.
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