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Gov. Ricketts, Nebraska DOT Join Local Community Celebration of Hwy 281 Bridge Opening South of Spencer

LINCOLN, NE — The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT), Governor Pete Ricketts, transportation partners, and Spencer-area community members recently gathered to celebrate the opening of the permanent bridge on Highway 281 over the Niobrara River south of Spencer. The event also marked full mobility being restored on the State Highway System after catastrophic flooding in March 2019.

“Since last March’s tragedy, we’ve come far with recovery in Nebraska. We’ve reached many milestones worth celebrating as we worked to rebuild bigger and better than before. While there has been much progress over the last year on the State Highway System, two major projects remained to be completed,” Ricketts said. “On September 1st, we celebrated the opening of the Mormon Canal Bridge at Niobrara. Today, we do the same here at Spencer with a final celebration of the completion of the work on the State Highway System following the 2019 floods. The speed of rebuilding is a true testament to the commitment and dedication of the community, NDOT, and everyone who contributed to get us here.”

On March 14, 2019, the dam at Spencer was compromised and resulted in significant damage to Highway 281 at Spencer. On July 26, 2019, a temporary bridge was completed, allowing direct access in the region once again. Prior to the temporary bridge installation, locals were required to utilize a 127-mile detour to cross the river. With the operational temporary bridge, the NDOT was able to reestablish mobility on Highway 281 over the Niobrara.

“We at NDOT are part of the community,” said Mark Kovar, NDOT District 8 Engineer. “We live here and raise our families here. The flood of 2019 was felt by all of us. Getting to today took a lot of work, coordination, and effort from NDOT and our industry partners. It also took partnership and patience from the community, which was devastated by the flooding. We know getting the roadway open was of utmost importance to help with recovery.”

As a result of the March 2019 flood, 3,300 miles of the State Highway System was closed. Once the damage was assessed, over 27 bridges required major work or total rebuilds in addition to over 200 miles of pavement requiring total rebuilds of significant repair.

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“The flood of 2019 presented challenges for all of us,” said Chris Hawkins, COO of Hawkins Construction. “Challenges some of us had never encountered before that required innovative solutions. Together with NDOT we brought a new temporary bridge system to Nebraska for the first time to restore mobility in north central Nebraska while the permanent bridge was built. Our partnership with NDOT and industry partners helped us get here today.”

The NDOT worked closely with Olsson & Associates to expedite the design of the reconstruction. Hawkins Construction is the lead contractor on this project. The $25,470,887 contract covers the single lane temporary roadway and bridge as well as a permanent 1,050-foot bridge over the Niobrara River Channel.

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