Central Nebraska Roadtrip

April, 2002

Jeremy Lance came up from Kansas City for a weekend roadtrip with me through Central Nebraska. In surfing the net, he had come across a page by the FHWA about historic bridges in Nebraska, so we set out to survey several of these, as well as introduce Mr. Lance to the beauty of the Nebraska Sandhills. Oh yeah, we brought brownies, Cheetoes, Q-tips, and bait along with us this time. And I learned how to use the parking brake.

Of note, we discovered what may be the shortest signed highway in the United States. More information below.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the picture.

Route: W Dodge Road and old Lincoln Highway west of Omaha; US 275 to Fremont, US 30 to North Bend, various state and county hwys to Schuyler via Linwood, and to the Columbus Loup River Bridge on US 30 / 81.

The western terminus of NE 36 is at US 275. However, the new US 275 freeway had just been opened between Waterloo and Fremont. The former roadway in Douglas County was signed for a short time as "US 275A" before it was converted to a county road.
The first historic bridge we visited was the Loup River Bridge for US 30 / 81 south of Columbus. The newer bridge carries northbound traffic; the historic southbound bridge dates from 1930. Its predecessor carried the Lincoln Highway here.
This cool stone railroad depot was in downtown Columbus.

Route: US 81 to NE 22 and NE 39 to Albion. NE 91 west to Spalding.

We passed the eastern terminus of NE 22 north of Columbus. US 81 is a four lane expressway from Columbus 46 miles north to Norfolk. Even so, I think two shields on the "double arrow" sign is excessive. I love Nebraska's guide signs.
Here's the end of Link 12A, a shortcut between NE 22 and NE 39 near Genoa. Nebraska has many of these Link and Spur routes. The number (12) indicates the county (Butler); routes in the county are lettered sequentially.
We also visited the eastern terminus of NE 56 near St. Edward.
What a suprise! Our favorite character from #roadgeek is full of shit again!
Another terminus captured: North end of NE 39, south of Albion.

Roadgeeks in Vermont have always held claim to the shortest state highway: VT 26 runs about 50 feet over a bridge and into New Hampshire. However, this road has no signs... no indications that it truly is VT 26.

Welcome to Nebraksa! Tucked in between the northern terminus of NE 39 (see left) and the continuation of NE 14 is NE L6A, a whopping 150 feet. Above, the left picture is a Terraserver aerial view of L6A, accompanied by pictures displaying L6A in its grand entirety! A new roadgeek record?

Route: (Very) old US 281 over crooked gravel roads to Bartlett. NE 91 to Burwell, and around Calamus Reservoir. US 183 to Taylor and NE 91 back to Taylor.

Another terminus: NE 52 near Primrose We took an old, old route of US 281 indicated on a 1935 Nebraska map. Unfortunately just a gravel road today. We found this faded sign, but couldn't interpret it. Scenery on NE 91 west of Taylor. The fringe of Nebraska's sand hills.

Route: NE 11 though Ord, and visiting historic North Loup Bridge near North Loup.

We visited the North Loup Bridge in Valley County, Nebraska, about 3 miles northwest of the town of North Loup. It was built in 1912 and was the first rural bridge built over the river in the area. The leftmost picture shows where this bridge lies in comparison to the current bridge. Signs were left over at the east side of the bridge. The sign overhanging the bridge says "Clearance 13' 7"," but was painted over "Welcome to Valley County"
Jeremy's standing at the bridge's east flank. You can tell this bridge is quite narrow, 14'8" to be exact. Jeremy's pretty skinny, too. On the bridge, you can see the wear of the surface., and the state of the iron. Looking at the bridge from the eastern bank of the river. On the far end is one "pony truss" element (see below).

Route: Southeast to US 281, and around Grand Island. Visited various historic bridges of Hall County, south of Grand Island.

Entering Grand Island on the US 281 / NE 2 multiplex. NE 2 won't be alone between here and Lincoln. Signage around the US 30 intersection on US 281. NE 2 goes east a bit with US 34 before it dissolves into I-80 for 90 miles. US 34 goes south with US 281 from Grand Island to Hastings.
The first bridge we visited in Hall County was near US 281/US 34, about a mile north of I-80. The left most picture is taken from 281/34, looking west. It is a "pony truss" bridge, which means that it is constructed with several spans not tall enough to require overhead lateral support. Compare it with the usual truss design, seen above at the North Loup bridge. Pony trusses were inexpensive and ideal for Nebraska's wide, shallow rivers. This bridge originally was located at another crossing, and consisted of ten such pony trusses, making it the longest bridge constructed in this manner.
The next bridge we visited was southwest of Grand Island. The "Nine Bridges Bridge" carried the original highway south of Grand Island to Hastings, 3/4 mile east of current US 281/34. (The road today is named Nine Bridge Rd.) This bridge was a subtype of the "pony truss" which required shorter spans, thus it was named "nine bridges." It was built in 1913, and is one of very few remaining today.
Finally, we found a wooden bridge along this same thoroughfare between Grand Island and Hastings. It is about 1.5 miles north of the Nine Bridges Bridge also on Nine Bridge Rd. It is not mentioned on the FHWA site, so I don't have info about age, etc.

Route: East on I-80 to Omaha.

NE 2 stretches all the way east to west across the state. Between Grand Island and Lincoln, it used to be multiplexed first with US 34 and later with I-80. Here, east of Grand Island, NE 2 leaves US 34 and heads south to I-80. Today, there is officially a gap in NE 2 between this interchange, number 318, east of Grand Island to the US 77 SPUI interchange on the southside of Lincoln. However, signs at this intersection still direct eastbound NE 2 traffic onto east I-80. This is one of few I-80 shields in Nebraska still with the state name.

Written by Neil Alexander Bratney
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Page Created September 25, 2002.