It has been a long, expensive and annoying wait for residents of South River Road.
Their lives were disrupted in 2015 when a late spring flood wiped out their road along the river, a mile or so west of North Platte.
The swollen river ate away the roadbed. The change was so dramatic it led to the death of two teenagers who had moved aside road closed barricades and mistakenly drove into the raging river.
Nearly three years later, no repairs have been made.
For Janice Schad, it is a painfully long wait.
Each day when Schad drives to town, she has to drive four miles out of her way, and drive the distance again on the way home.
“There are eight families besides us who use the ‘crossover’ on Homestead Road,” she said, “besides people who live closer to Hershey.”
“We were told they would do something about it,” Schad said.
Schad said she and her neighbors not only travel extra miles each day, they fight bumpy, washboard roads that are seldom maintained.
“In my opinion, they have forgotten about us,” she said of county officials.
Every couple months, a road grader might go over the South River Road that she uses, but no more than that, Schad said.
It’s even rarer for a grader to grade the road that leads to Schads driveway – Wagon Trail.
“It’s only been graded once since July, and that was by special request,” she said.
Lincoln County officials blame the delay on bureaucracy and cumbersome agreements. They have said at least four agencies have to sign off on the plans to rebuild the road. Two agencies are federal – FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Nebraska Game and Parks, the state historical society and Lincoln County must also agree to the plans.
The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also has a hand to play in preparations.
Repair plans have reportedly been drawn and an environmental assessment was conducted. Road Superintendent Carla O’Dell told the Bulletin on Jan. 9 that the environmental assessment was the last thing to occur.
The rebuilding is expected to cost $1.3 million or so. Most of that would be paid by FEMA, funneled through NEMA.
A year ago, O’Dell said she talked to NEMA but didn’t learn much.
“We don’t know more now than we did awhile back,” she said on Feb. 15, 2017, when she laid out the county’s road plans for the next year and six years.
O’Dell said the county submitted the necessary information to NEMA in early December 2016. She said representatives of NEMA and FEMA visited the washed out road the previous month.
A year before that, in a packed hearing room, residents and retired engineers urged the county to rebuild the road. Traffic counters showed 70-90 vehicles an hour would likely use the road if it were reopened.
Attorney George Clough, representing the landowner nearest the washout, said if the bank is not reinforced, the consequences could be catastrophic.
“There is a possibility of the river cutting a new path,” Clough said. “I hope we’re all concerned about that possibility.”
Retired Nebraska Department of Road Engineer Les O’Donnell agreed.
Several engineers said the river could eventually come up against Buffalo Bill Ave., south of the river bridge.
In April 2016, plans were presented for a three-quarter-mile-long road to be built south of the washout, with the bank stabilized by rock as well as rip-rap to prevent more erosion.
But nothing has happened yet.
Meanwhile, those who use the road can do nothing but wait and complain as they drive the extra miles every day on bumpy roads.
The county’s annual one- and six-year road plans will be presented on Tuesday morning, Feb. 20, during the weekly county commissioner meeting.
The meetings are held in the commissioner’s room on the east end of the courthouse, 301 N. Jeffers. The meetings start at 9 a.m.