A pedestrian bridge under assembly above Omaha’s North Freeway will create a new Creighton University connection and reopen an old one.

The bridge will link the Creighton campus with a newly renovated, 732-unit apartment building, the Atlas, in the former Creighton University Medical Center.

The span also will re-establish a historic connection that was erased for the highway decades ago between Creighton and the Gifford Park neighborhood.

The northbound lanes of the North Freeway are closed this weekend for bridge construction. Portions of the highway are scheduled to be closed during the next three weekends as work continues.

The steel truss bridge will be 600 feet long, said Todd Heistand, co-owner of NuStyle Development, which owns the Atlas. The span will be 10 feet wide. It will have a roof.

The bridge will be close to a level grade as it crosses from 19 to 24 feet above U.S. Highway 75. On the east side, pedestrians will have to take stairs or an elevator to reach the span.

HDR designed it. Hawkins Construction Co. is the builder. The bridge sections were built by Contech Engineered Solutions and are being connected this month to bridge supports that have been constructed on site over the past several months.

Heistand said the bridge is “nothing like” the pedestrian bridge that collapsed recently in Florida.

“It’s a true steel truss bridge,” he said.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation approved the bridge’s design for safety and road clearance, said Jeni Campana, spokeswoman for the department. The owners are responsible for safety, maintenance and inspections.

The bridge owners are paying the state $6,030 a year to lease air space above the highway.

The bridge will cost approximately $6.5 million, split between NuStyle and Creighton.

Heistand called it “a big piece” of what’s attracting graduate students and young professionals to live in the Atlas.

“I don’t know if the project would have been successful without it,” he said.

The bridge will allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross over an overpass and eight lanes of highway traffic that separate the Atlas from the Creighton campus. It will go from the end of Creighton’s main brick walkway east of the highway to the Atlas, at 2929 California Street on the west side of the highway.

A public corridor through the Atlas will connect to 30th Street. The walkway and bridge will be accessible to the public. People who live at the Atlas, many of whom will be students, will be able to walk or bike over the highway to class, soccer and basketball games on campus.

People on campus will be able to traipse across to the Atlas and its restaurants and shops. They may make their way three more blocks into the historic and evolving Gifford Park neighborhood beyond to have lunch at California Tacos, volunteer at the Community Bike Project or watch pickup soccer games that rival the World Cup in diversity.

Gifford Park residents may once again walk down California and on over to church at St. John’s on campus, like they used to do in the old days, before the highway came through.

“Having that connection back is great,” said Martin Janousek, a Gifford Park Neighborhood Association board member.

There is already a connection between the neighborhoods: Burt Street. It runs under the highway.

“But having the ability to take the bridge across is a nice option too,” he said. “Connections are good. In today’s world, people are more conscious of having walkable neighborhoods.”

Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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