To help ease flooding that has closed Iowa Highway 2 several times this spring, two new bridges are planned for a low spot on the highway near the Missouri River bridge that connects Iowa and Nebraska.

The Iowa Department of Transportation will start taking bids in July for a project that would construct eastbound and westbound bridges, over a U-shaped levee, within several hundred feet of the existing Missouri River bridge.

That bridge links Nebraska City on the Nebraska side with Fremont County in southwest Iowa.

The new bridges would help redirect water that has spilled out of the Missouri from creeping onto the highway.

“Once the water gets outside the Missouri River, it allows the water to travel underneath the bridges and not overtop the roadway,” said Scott Suhr, a district transportation planner for the Iowa DOT. “It basically buys us a little more time, adds a little more capacity and reduces the potential impact of flooding in that area.”

Iowa officials will also study whether Highway 2 should be raised to prevent damage from future floods.

Closings on multiple western Iowa roads and Missouri River crossings have delayed drivers since record flooding in March. Recurrent flooding has caused more water to cover roads. A long stretch of Interstate 29 south of Glenwood, Iowa, to north of St. Joseph, Missouri, remains closed.

The section of Highway 2 connecting Iowa and Nebraska reopened in May after 56 days of being shut down, with drivers forced to use a temporary lane made of permeable rock. But that segment is closed again, and Iowa DOT photos from last week show parts of the road submerged.

Suhr said the concept of adding bridges to Highway 2 has been in the works for years, probably since the Missouri River flooding in 2011.

“We were looking at what makes sense, what will work, what won’t work,” he said. “With the flooding, that pretty much accelerated the whole discussion.”

Building the two 1,100-foot by 40-foot bridges could cost $30 million to $50 million in state and federal funds.

Dan Mauk, the executive director of the Nebraska City Area Economic Development Corp., said many residents and business owners on the Nebraska side wrote letters to the Iowa DOT “to encourage them to expedite that.”

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Workers who live in Iowa but work in Nebraska, or vice versa, have had a tough time navigating road closures and detours.

“They should have done it 10 years ago,” Mauk said.

Depending on the contract, construction could start as soon as this August but probably won’t be finished until fall 2021, Suhr said.

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Reporter - Education

Erin is an enterprise reporter for the World-Herald. Previously, Erin covered education. Follow her on Twitter @eduff88. Phone: 402-444-1210.

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