KEARNEY, Neb. — The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument won't have much chance to benefit from a new Interstate 80 interchange this summer.
Tom Farber, project manager at the Nebraska Department of Roads, said construction on phase one of the east Kearney exit will wrap up by Aug. 30 if weather permits. Completion won't come in time for the Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration events June 30 and July 1.
“It would have helped bring in spontaneous drivers that may have seen the event,” said Dawna Ourada, educational and programming coordinator at the archway. “But since we've never had an exit there, I don't think it will affect turnout.”
Farber said wet and stormy conditions have caused delays on the project, which began last year and resumed in April after winter hiatus. He said he anticipates more bad weather causing further delays.
Archway officials hope greater attendance will help reduce its financial problems.
The archway's 2012 attendance of 49,960 was an all-time low since the attraction opened in 2000. In 2012, operating expenses exceeded the operational income of $480,000 by about $365,000.
Chairman Joel Johnson of the Great Platte River Road Archway Foundation said that group will ask the city and Buffalo County for $200,000 a year each for the next three years and is hoping to collect $140,000 in private donations.
Gary Roubicek, executive director at the archway, said he is often told that people would visit the archway if there were a simpler way to get to it.
Eastbound travelers must continue to the Minden exit and turn around to get to the archway.
“The top complaint from visitors is that it is too difficult to get to the archway,” Roubicek said. “We expect profits to jump at least 25 percent when the exit opens.”