LEXINGTON — Several community members provided comments, concerns and questions about the proposed east viaduct project during the public hearing held by the Federal Highway Administration and the City of Lexington on Sept. 12
The purpose of the east viaduct project is to improve traffic flow around the intersection of County Road 435, Highway 30 and the Union Pacific Railroad, UPRR. This would help reduce crashes and provide more access to consist with Lexington’s planning efforts.
Steve Lane, with the Federal Highway Administration, FHA, said the crash rate at this intersection is higher than other crossings of a similar layout. According to FHA research, Lane said the crossing is blocked by Union Pacific trains 79 times a day for an average of two minutes, in a 24 hour period it equals three hours of delay.
Back in 2013 the City of Lexington held a public meeting in November for the proposed project, three possible concepts were presented. Concept C, which featured the viaduct to the east of Road 435 was eliminated at this meeting. During a joint City of Lexington and Dawson County meeting, Concept B, a version which had the viaduct to the west of 435 was eliminated, leaving Concept A.
Concept A is the preferred alternative and it shows the viaduct being built on county road 435. This concept would have to be facilitated by several changes in how the area is accessed.
First of all the railroad crossing at 435, Highway 30 and the UPRR, the crossing at Road 436, a mile east would also be closed.
Walnut St., which flanks the railroad and Highway 30 to the south, would be closed at the 435 intersection.
To the north the intersection of Road 755 and 435 would be improved to handle the increased traffic flow.
Road 755 would no longer continue straight east, its existing intersection with Highway 30 would be closed and a new connection with Highway 30 would be built, with the appropriate intersection.
A turn lane would be added to Highway 30, where 755’s new connection would be.
Two new roads would be built to help facilitate the viaduct, new road “A” would extend west from 435, south of the viaduct. New road “B” would run north and south from Walnut St. to new road “A” to direct traffic on Walnut to access the viaduct and vice versa.
The proposed project would not be constructed under traffic and it would require detouring Highway 30 and local traffic, according to FHA information.
For local traffic, they will be, “utilizing county road 756 and Taft St. north of Highway 30 and Highway 283 and East. Walnut St. or County Road 754 south of Highway 30,” according to the FHA. Lane said the local detour would be around 6.9 miles long.
Highway 30 traffic would be detoured to Interstate 80 during the duration of the project.
The project would require additional acquisition of additional property which could include new right-of-way, ROW, permanent easements or temporary easements. Current access to businesses in the area would change and access to adjacent properties would be maintained during construction. Access may be limited due to phasing requirements, according to the FHA.
Right-of-Way agents will work with land owners and will ensure compliance with federal and state regulations. No additional changes in land use and no relocations would be necessary with the project.
The cost of the project will be around $9.6 million, coming from federal and city funding sources.
The next steps forward from the project are the completion of the final environmental assessment by early 2020. The Final design and ROW acquisition will take place in 2020. Bid and contractor selection is anticipated to start by late 2020.
Construction may start in spring 2021, with a two year process, being completed by fall 2023.
The public hearing, held on Thursday, gave the public a chance to voice their opinions, in public or private.
The first to publicly present was Dave Fairbanks, who owns the land where the Titan Machinery store is located on road 435, south of Highway 30.
Fairbanks expressed concerns about how the project would impact the property, “The overpass is going to change that access dramatically. The access you are proposing, a permanent easement (through the property) is not satisfactory.”
Fairbanks comment on the difficulties semis will have in trying to access the property, he said “we do not believe there is enough room” in front of one of their buildings for a semi to make a U-turn safely.
Comments were also made about all-weather access, “When we purchased this property we had easy access from all-weather roads close to the building.” Fairbanks said, “We paid taxes to help maintain road 435 for the last 40 plus years, who is going to pay for the maintenance of the new access road? Also this access road will eliminate 15 to 20 percent of the equipment display area south of our building.”
Visibility of the business was also a concern, “The overpass will block visibility from the east, there are two signs representing nearly a $20,000 investment that will no longer be visible from the east. That loss of visibility may require more marketing dollars,” said Fairbanks.
Fairbanks closed by saying, “We totally understand the need for the overpass. We just want to work with you to solve the problems it creates for our location.”
Tom Downey, CEO of Downey Drilling Inc., also provide a public comment. The business is located on road 435 as well, south of Titan Machinery.
Downey said he shared Fairbank’s concerns and they are willing to work with Titan Machinery.
“We understand the need, we see it daily,” said Downey, “We want to let folks here know we are on board with Dave.”
Bruce Stuart, a farmer who owns land on both sides of road 755, spoke and expressed concerns with the realignment of 755. He said there didn’t appear to be any access for farm machinery on preliminary plans.
Written comments or requests can be made by Friday, Sept. 27, they should be sent to Lexington Assistant City Manager Dennis Burnside. 406 E. 7th St. P.O. Box 70, Lexington, NE 68850. Burnside can also be contact at 308-324-2341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The draft environmental assessment, DEA, can be viewed by the public at the Lexington Municipal Building, Dawson County Courthouse and the Lexington Public Library.
The DEA can also be viewed online at the City of Lexington and Nebraska Department of Transportation websites.