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Bob Kerrey Bridge back open after snow, ice led to one of its longest weather closures ever

December 16, 2018

Early December’s wet, heavy snow led to one of the longest weather-related closures in the 10-year history of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

The bridge, which connects Omaha and Council Bluffs, was closed for almost two weeks, reopening Thursday. While some people consider the bridge only a tourist draw, for others, it has become an important travel route, and the long closure has been a frustration.

Bike commuter Dave Honeycutt takes the bridge from his home in Council Bluffs to his job in midtown. Downtown Omaha resident Linda Hayek routinely uses the bridge to get to bicycling routes in the Council Bluffs area — even in the winter.

Both said they appreciate the difficulties the weather can present but said this closure went on too long.

“It’s a thoroughfare,” Honeycutt said. All types of people travel the bridge at all hours, he said.

Brook Bench, director of Omaha’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the city understands that people rely on the bridge for travel, but he said safety concerns prevented a quick reopening.

Bench said crews partly cleared the bridge after the Dec. 1-2 snow, but the rest of the wet, heavy snow froze before they could get their work done. The city didn’t want people on the icy bridge.

Also, the city was concerned that ice might fall from the overhead cables. The city doesn’t use salt or ice melt on the bridge because of the high cost of repairing and repainting salt-related damage, Bench said. Instead, the city uses motorized brushes to clear the bridge.

Because ice melt can’t be used on the bridge, Hayek said she hopes that the city prioritizes the bridge, clearing it before the adjacent sidewalks.

“That will reduce the downtime for a critical transportation link,” she said.

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