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Emergency design services aid bridge replacement over Niobrara River in Nebraska

March 31, 2021
The new bridge on Highway 281 over the Niobrara River in north central Nebraska.
The new bridge on Highway 281 over the Niobrara River in north central Nebraska.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts called Olsson’s work to restore the U.S. Highway 281 bridge a “feat of engineering” during the bridge reopening celebration, which took place just 19 months after historic flooding rendered the bridge useless.

Olsson was selected by the Nebraska Department of Transportation to lead emergency response efforts to restore the U.S. Highway 281 bridge and about 1,000 ft of roadway destroyed by flooding following the breach of nearby Spencer Dam. Olsson’s multidisciplinary engineering and environmental efforts included civil and geotechnical engineering, geotechnical investigation and design, bridge inspection and design, roadway design, environmental planning and permitting, and hydrology and hydraulics.

Completing the project on such a constricted deadline required tight coordination from the start. Olsson completed preliminary engineering designs for the new permanent bridge, a temporary bridge, and the new bridge approach in only 27 days.

“People at the Department of Transportation were working around the clock, people at Olsson were working around the clock … to come up with these solutions,” Ricketts said during the grand opening on the new permanent bridge. The governor made a point of thanking crews and supervisors from Hawkins Construction, the project’s general contractor, who also attended the dedication.

“It was an incredible feat of engineering and construction that everybody came together to make this happen,” the governor said of the $25.5 million project. “It really has been a testament to the partnerships in our state.”

Restoring the major transportation route was essential to the economy of north central Nebraska. The bridge closure forced some motorists to take detours as long as 127 miles, adding two hours to trips that formerly took only minutes, said Derek Bentz, chairman of the village board in nearby Spencer.

Olsson completed emergency design work on the Highway 281 bridge in 27 days.
Olsson completed emergency design work on the Highway 281 bridge in 27 days.

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Editor's Note: Scranton Gillette Communications and the SGC Infrastructure Group are not liable for the accuracy, efficacy and validity of the claims made in this piece. The views expressed in this content do not reflect the position of the Roads & Bridges' Editorial Team.

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