WAVERLY, Neb. — The newest six-lane stretch of Interstate 80 is just a few miles long, stretching from the Waverly interchange to 56th Street in Lincoln. But its economic impact will be far reaching.
Gov. Dave Heineman said the lanes on Nebraska's most heavily traveled roadway will prove their worth to the entire state.
“This is a great day for the state of Nebraska,” Heineman said Thursday at a ceremonial ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the eight-month, $53 million project. “This is important economically to our state.”
The stretch of new interstate is to open to travelers late Friday into early Saturday. It marks the near completion of a 10-plus year, $401 million project to widen eastbound and westbound I-80 between Omaha and Lincoln from two lanes to three. It also brings the speed limit to 75 mph on the entire stretch of I-80 between the two cities.
Heineman, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and others gathered at the I-80 interchange near U.S. Highway 6 just west of Waverly.
“I'm sure everyone who commutes between Omaha and Lincoln will be glad two see the barricades finally come down. Travel between Omaha and Lincoln will be much easier now,” Stothert said.
The project was a partnership between the cities of Omaha and Lincoln and state and federal government.
Lincoln City Councilman Carl Eskridge said his wife drives I-80 between Lincoln and Omaha for work. And he called the completion of the I-80 upgrade the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
“This road is tremendously important for commerce in Nebraska,” he added.
Nebraska Department of Roads engineers have said some work remains. The Waverly-to-56th Street section and the entire Omaha-to-Lincoln stretch should officially wrap up in late spring or early summer.
The 3.86-mile, Waverly-to-56th Street leg began in mid-March. Eastbound and westbound traffic used the already upgraded eastbound lanes. The bulk of the overall project was paid for with federal funds.
The Waverly-to-56th Street section also has included interchange and bridge upgrades. It involved building four new bridges, three new westbound lanes and a new I-80 westbound access loop from U.S. Highway 6 near Waverly, engineers said. Hawkins Construction Co. of Omaha was the general contractor.
The remaining tasks for the stretch include permanent lane markings, guardrail work and installation of a message board over eastbound lanes, the Roads Department said.