ASHLAND – It seems the viaduct project that has shutdown outbound traffic has made traveling through Ashland a challenge for taller vehicles, especially if they attempt to use the underpass.
On June 1, the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) began a project to repair and resurface the bridge tracks and the approaches on the viaduct over Salt Creek and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad on Highway 66, which locals commonly referred to locally as the “overpass.” The nearly $1 million project is expected to last until August.
JMN Construction of Valley was awarded the contract to repair the bridge deck and install a new grade beam with cold liquid-applied membrane with three-inch asphalt overlay, according to the NDOT.
The official southbound detour takes drivers on County Road A (also called Guard Camp Road) to Highway 6. The NDOT organized the project so one lane of traffic remains open. The inbound traffic coming off of Highway 6 into Ashland can use the overpass. However, outbound traffic is not allowed on the overpass.
This is causing issues in several different ways, as discussed by the Ashland City Council last Thursday at their meeting. Many drivers are ignoring the “road closed” signs and attempting to reach Highway 6 via the overpass. These drivers often encounter traffic heading straight at them, causing dangerous situations.
Other drivers try to get to Highway 6 via Silver Street through the short tunnel that runs underneath the railroad. Ashlanders call the tunnel the “underpass.” The problem is the underpass is only 11 feet, 3 inches tall, so many high-profile vehicles driven by people not familiar with Ashland end up with damage after they try to get through, officials report.
Some of the vehicles that have been damaged are campers who are leaving Ashland after staying at Ashland RV Campground, the new campground that opened last year on 13th Street near downtown. Visitors unfamiliar with the underpass have ripped the refrigerators off the top of their campers, officials report.
There are signs alerting drivers to the height of the overpass, warning them of low clearance and even stating the exact height of the structure. But many drivers ignore them.
City Council Member Jim Anderson suggested the city put up another warning sign on 13th Street for the campers.
“We need some advanced warning, as simple as that,” he said at last Thursday’s meeting.
Council Member Bruce Wischmann said neon flashing lights aren’t enough to alert some drivers.
“I’m not against another sign here,” he said. “Getting them to read it, that’s the issue.”
In the end, the city council did not agree on exactly where the sign should be placed. City Administrator Jessica Quady said she would consult with Public Works Director Shane Larsen on the issue.