Three proposals considered for dangerous intersection

August 4, 2018

The best way to make Highway 81-91 intersection safer may be too costly and too political.

State Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus said he is not optimistic the intersection will get the necessary upgrade anytime soon.

He was one of the area residents invited to a private meeting hosted by members of the Nebraska Department of Transportation at Steepleview Golf Course in Humphrey.

Humphrey Mayor Lonnie Weidner was one of the people invited to share his thoughts during the 1½-hour meeting.

“They took our ideas, and they said they’d go back to the drawing board and have another meeting in a month or so,” he said. “Then they were going to put together something to present to the public.”

He said about 20 attended the meeting, with about eight from the transportation department.

“It amounted to that they know what’s wrong, here are some facts, they know they need to do something, and they know they need to do something relatively quickly,” Weidner said. “Everyone sat around a table, they gave their talk and asked for opinions, and people gave them.”

Weidner said he hopes the feedback was enough to prompt the state to come up with a plan. “I think it’s on the front burner,” he said.

Schumacher was less hopeful, saying money will play a role in what gets done at the intersection.

“Basically, that intersection, along with between and 40 and 50 other locations around the state, are known serious problems,” he said. “To fix all of those serious problems would require more money than is available to be spent, and therefore, as always, money is the crux of the problem.”

He said the state representatives at the meeting referred to a 2012 study that resulted in three possible fixes for the intersection.

The first is a “J” turn, which is an alternative to traditional roadway intersections on a four-lane highway. Instead of motorists crossing fast-moving lanes of traffic to get to the opposing lanes, drivers at a J-turn intersection turn right in the same direction of traffic, merge into the left lane, and then make a u-turn in the direction they intend to travel.

Schumacher said it would cost around $1 million and could be done in a year with little engineering.

“That went over like a lead balloon,” he said.

The second idea is a roundabout, which is a circular intersection where drivers travel around a center island.

“That would slow traffic way down and would be a little dicey if you were next to a semi,” Schumacher said. “That would be in the general range of $5 million to $7 million and would take a little longer.”

He said that idea was not too popular among stakeholders.

The third plan, which Schumacher said is the best, is the most costly and would take the most time to construct.

“The right way to do it is ... a plain, ordinary exit ramp and entry ramp. That would take somewhere between $10 million and $15 million and supposedly three years of engineering,” he said. “I think the group generally felt, well, if it takes three years and it takes $10 million to $15 million, and enough people have been killed there over the last 40 years, to just get it done.”

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