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Fremont Southeast Beltway Decreases Congestion and Improves Regional Connectivity

by: Debra Wood
Crews work to create a 3.2-mile beltway south of Fremont.
Crews work to create a 3.2-mile beltway south of Fremont.
Crews install retaining walls with a Komatsu PC308USLC Excavator on the Fremont Southeast Beltway in Nebraska.
Crews install retaining walls with a Komatsu PC308USLC Excavator on the Fremont Southeast Beltway in Nebraska.
Crews install retaining walls on the Fremont beltway project.
Crews install retaining walls on the Fremont beltway project.
Crews use a Komatsu PC308USLC Excavator to lift the retaining wall sections into place.
Crews use a Komatsu PC308USLC Excavator to lift the retaining wall sections into place.
The new four-lane Fremont Southeast Beltway aims to improve safety and traffic flow by diverting through vehicles around the southeast side of the city.

“The four-lane project will decrease traffic congestion in the residential and downtown areas of Fremont and improve local access and mobility along with regional connectivity between U.S. 77, U.S. 275, and U.S. 30,” says Ray Trujillo, project manager for the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT).

The 3.2-mile project includes inside and outside shoulders, a raised median with center turn lanes, and three bridges over the BNSF Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad/Old Highway 275, and the U.S. 77/U.S. 275 interchange. The beltway passes through primarily rural communities with some industrial facilities north of the road.

At Broad Street and Downing Street, roundabout intersections will be added as will a roundabout at the U.S. 275 interchange. NDOT has used roundabouts at other intersections and drivers are familiar with them.

“The Broad Street intersection will have heavy turning movements into Fremont,” Trujillo explains. “The roundabouts provide a safe and efficient method to provide for those turning movements along with the through traffic. They’ve been shown to reduce injury accidents and fatal accidents due to lower speeds and reduced number of conflict points.”

Collaboration Makes Beltway a Reality
The city of Fremont contributed $20 million during a three-year period. Dodge County, Lincoln Premium Poultry, Wholestone Farms and Fremont Beef Co. – chicken, pork, and beef and pork processers, respectively – agreed to invest $10 million in the project, and the state funded the balance of the $62 million of construction cost as well as the engineering, utilities relocation, and land acquisition cost.
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Lincoln opened in 2019 and processes about 2 million chickens weekly for Costco. Wholestone opened in 2017 and processes more than 10,600 hogs daily. Fremont Beef has operated for more than 30 years and is a bulk supplier to the Asian, American, and Hispanic food service industries.

NDOT’s Build Nebraska Act and Transportation Innovation Act prioritization process confirmed a need for the project. The public had voiced concern about truck traffic and asked that it be diverted outside of town to reduce travel time in the city.

“This project was originally scheduled for a 2024 construction season but to due to the growing need to improve mobility and support truck traffic associated with economic growth of the region, the project timeline was accelerated from 2024 to 2020 thanks to local financial support,” Trujillo adds.

City Administrator Brian Newton stated in a release that “over the last several years, the southeast side of Fremont has seen significant development and business expansion.”

NDOT secured the needed right of way and designed the beltway through rural lands in consultation with Schemmer of Omaha.

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“Potential impacts to environmental resources were evaluated as the project was designed,” Trujillo says. “A Corps of Engineers permit was received for the project impacts to wetlands. The permit included construction of a wetland mitigation site just south of the proposed Highway 275 interchange.”

Earthmoving and Paving
Graham Construction of Omaha received the construction contract. The employee-owned international contractor has an office in Omaha, Nebraska. Work began on the project in summer of 2020, with clearing of the land and earthwork embankment of more than 1 million cubic yards in 2020.

“So far, it’s been going very well,” says Martin Potgieter, Superintendent for Graham. The company subcontracted work to local contractors and suppliers where possible. “Graham has built a team of teams in an effort to get the project completed well ahead of the project schedule,” Potgieter adds.

The entire project entails moving 2.2 million cubic yards of dirt. This includes filling in a lake and building the road up and over multiple railroad lines along with Highway 275. The new expressway will be elevated from neighboring properties.

All of the earthwork was done with GPS equipment, and the paving will be stringless with a total station for “more accurate control,” Potgieter says. Graham also has conducted initial surveys with drones. Potgieter says, “Using modern technologies provides a better product with less effort in the field.”

The three bridges have concrete girders. The bridge above the BNSF Railway rail tracks is single span. The second has two spans, one over the Union Pacific Railroad lines to a pier and then over a road. The third has two spans over the 275 expressway.

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The three roundabouts are a bit more challenging to build, because with a traditional interchange the pavers can pass straight through. However, the roundabout requires more hand work, Potgieter says.

Graham crews also are installing precast concrete boxes as part of a stormwater system.

Minimal Conflicts

Being a new road, the project had few conflicts with existing traffic.

“With the project located on new alignment, the contractor has phased the project to require only minor temporary surfacing and will utilize the permanent road as construction is completed to facilitate traffic flow,” Trujillo says. “There will be night-time roadway closings on old Highway 275 and U.S. 275 when girders are installed for the bypass bridges. There are also minor shoulder or roadway closures on these roadways to construct the substructure of these bridges.”

Graham plans on working through the winter on minor tasks, such as concrete removal adjacent to the 275 expressway. The beltway is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2023. However, Potgieter plans to finish early.

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The project currently is ahead of schedule, something Potgieter hopes to keep up. In part it will compensate, if needed, for a potentially cold winter and wet spring.

“Throughout the current pandemic, the contractor has not only maintained the construction schedule, but is ahead of schedule,” Trujillo concludes. “NDOT has performed its duties to match this schedule and through this strong working partnership we anticipate a very successful completion.”

Photos courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Transportation

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