A months-long road construction project on a heavily traveled stretch of U.S. Highway 75 north of Nebraska City will force motorists to use alternative routes and could take a financial toll on at least two businesses.
Work on the 6.1-mile span is set to begin in March or April and will shut down the two-lane highway in both directions, possibly through September.
State Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion and some of his constituents in Cass and Otoe Counties are concerned about the closing’s impact: “I think everybody in Nebraska City will be affected because at some point, they all travel to Omaha.”
Despite expected hardships, Kintner said he knows the roadway needs repairs. He praised State Department of Roads officials for their efforts to work with area residents and businesses.
“The Nebraska Department of Roads has been very sensitive to businesses,” he said. “They’ve gone out of their way to be accommodating.’’
The highway closing will stretch from just south of Union to just north of Nebraska City.
Tom Goodbarn, an engineer with the Roads Department, said the roadway took a beating in the summer of 2011 when flooding from the Missouri River closed parts of Interstate 29 and moved semitrailer truck traffic onto Highway 75. An average of 4,000 vehicles continue to travel the highway each day, taking a toll on its patchwork of asphalt overlays, he said.
The roadwork will replace the existing two lanes with new pavement. Ten inches of new concrete will give the roadway a “better foundation,” Goodbarn said. Crews also will lay new shoulders and work to improve drainage. The project is expected to cost the state slightly more than $10 million, he said.
Motorists will be rerouted onto county roads or U.S. Highway 34, Nebraska Highway 50 and Nebraska Highway 2. The detours will add as much as 32 miles to trips and lead vehicles to bypass at least two businesses, Union Orchard and a Gas N Go convenience store and filling station.
Jim Johnson, 56, a farmer who has owned the Gas N Go for 10 years, said the Department of Roads has offered to construct a temporary rock road from a nearby county road to his shop on the east side of the highway, about 5.5 miles north of Nebraska City.
The rock road will help, he said. But his business, which serves a number of farmers, will take a hit.
“It’s going to hurt the farm economy in the area,’’ he said.
But when the work is done, he said, he’ll still be open for business: “I’m an optimistic person. We’ll make it.”
Carla Wostrel, who owns Union Orchard with her husband, Terry, called the highway closing a “major bump in the road for us.”
Wostrel said the department of roads told her that the project could wrap up earlier than mid-September if Nebraska’s notoriously fickle weather cooperates. She said the orchard is open year-round, with its busiest time in the fall, especially around the annual Nebraska City area’s Applejack Festival, which is held the third weekend of September.
“Our business really does the majority of its income from mid-July to Nov. 1,’’ she said. “It’s going to have a drastic impact on our business.’’