Interstate 29 from southwest Iowa to northwest Missouri could reopen by Memorial Day weekend.
The highway sustained major damage from March flooding and has been closed since, with an original target date for reopening in June.
“Right now, we have contractors in place working,” said Scott Suhr, transportation planner for the Iowa Department of Transportation. “We’re shooting for an opening by Memorial Day weekend, weather permitting. We’re also hoping to open up Iowa 2 at the same time.”
Iowa 2 is the highway that connects Nebraska 2, which runs from Lincoln to Nebraska City, to I-29.
The route is the primary link between Lincoln and the Kansas City area.
When I-29 reopens, it won’t be a fully functioning four-lane highway for several weeks.
“There are likely going to be head-to-head sections, one lane in each direction, in some places," Suhr said. "It will take some time. But we’ll, at least, get it open."
The cost of the repairs has not yet been determined, Suhr said. But it will be in the millions.
“The damage is greater than what we experienced in 2011,” he said.
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On Tuesday, traffic cameras from the Iowa Department of Transportation revealed work to rebuild lanes of I-29 in some areas. In other areas, floodwaters from the Missouri River still covered on- and off-ramps to the interstate.
Further north, crews are working to reopen a closed section of I-29 between the I-680 interchanges at Crescent and Loveland.
The earlier-than-anticipated opening is the result of a relatively smooth rebuilding effort by Iowa DOT and its contractors.
“It’s going pretty well, all things considered,” Suhr said. “We’ve got our crews out there, contractors out there really working around the clock, so we can make the Memorial Day weekend opening."
The holiday weekend and unofficial start to summer is a natural target for transportation officials. The closing of I-29 has significantly increased traffic on two-lane roads, including U.S. 75 in Nebraska, heightening safety concerns in towns like Auburn.
This weekend, NASCAR fans from Nebraska will be seeking alternate routes to attend races at Kansas Speedway.
The Missouri Department of Transportation -- which closed I-29 north of St. Joseph to the Iowa border to manage traffic flow, not repair damage -- will reopen the highway simultaneously with the Iowa reopening.
That will mean I-29 will be open from Sioux City to Kansas City for the first time in more than two months.