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Niobrara celebrates reopening of Highway 12 bridge

NIOBRARA, Nebraska (KTIV) –  Historic spring flooding shut down many roads, bridges, and towns in March… and damaged the bridge on Highway 12 in Niobrara, Nebraska.

On Saturday, Nebraska leaders announced the temporary bridge over the Mormon Canal is now open.

Significant flooding this spring caused the bridge to close in March, leading to an hour-long detour for those traveling through the town.

A temporary, one-lane bridge over the Mormon Canal has opened to replace the bridge that was washed away after the Spencer Dam failed upstream.

Nebraska leaders say that this bridge is one of many destroyed by spring flooding.

“The flood happened on March 14th,” said Kyle Schneweis, Nebraska DOT Director. “That day we had 3,300 miles of highway closed in Nebraska. We operate 10,000 miles. So 1 out of every 3 is closed because of flooding. Or there was a blizzard in the panhandle that day- some people forget.”

Leaders say the temporary and permanent reconstruction of Highway 12 is one of the most complex flood recovery projects in the state.

On Tuesday, the Nebraska DOT and others were recognized for their efforts to make repairs and open the temporary bridge.

Dozens of residents and leaders came out to celebrate the opening of Highway 12 on this part of the state.

That includes the Niobrara Public Schools Superintendent, who says her students and staff no longer have to leave an extra hour early to get to school.

“Everybody that lives on the west side of the Niobrara River has to be commended because their lives have not been easy these last few months,” says Margaret Sandoz, Niobrara Public Schools Superintendent.

Traffic is flowing again on Highway 12.

It is a big relief for staff and students at Niobrara Public Schools, who started school on Monday.

“It really created havoc for the school in general,” says Sandoz. “It created an hour and a half to an hour and 45-minute bus route- which typically takes less than an hour.”

One student who lives on the west side of the river had to move where he called “home” up until this past weekend.

“My grandma lives over in Niobrara,” said senior Adam DeKay. “And I just lived with my grandma for the entire summer and the rest of school.”

Many residents joined Nebraska leaders at Tuesday’s ceremony to celebrate the temporary bridge that was built in a short time span, showing how ‘connected’ the people of Niobrara are.

“As the progress came along and they started building it, I think people come together as a community and got behind the whole thing,” said Jody Stark, Village of Niobrara Chairman. “And felt a sense of accomplishment at getting something done.”

Construction on a permanent replacement bridge is expected to be done about a year from now.

“All roads finally lead back to Niobrara,” adds Sandoz. “It’s nice feeling connected again and not so isolated.”

Jennifer Lenzini

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