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Officials will dedicate a new $61 million bridge over the Missouri River north of Plattsmouth on Wednesday.

The 3,276-foot-long, four-lane bridge, a joint project between the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Nebraska Department of Roads, took years of study and nearly three years to build.

The concrete and steel span is part of a newly relocated section of U.S. 34 that runs from U.S. 75 just south of Offutt Air Force Base to Interstate 29 near Glenwood, Iowa.

Its opening means drivers have an alternative to the winding route that required paying a toll at Plattsmouth.

"It will impact the toll bridge. The exact extent is still an educated guess at this point," Plattsmouth City Administrator Erv Portis said Monday.

In 2007, the city of Plattsmouth bought the toll bridge for $1 from the Plattsmouth Bridge Co. and created a commission to operate and maintain it. Built in 1929, the 402-foot-long, cantilevered truss bridge cost about $700,000.

The new bridge obviously will reduce toll revenues, Portis said, but it will also reduce wear and tear on the Plattsmouth bridge, which was refurbished in 2008.

"One fully loaded (semi) truck does as much damage as 2,000 cars," he said, adding that the city would like to see more cars than trucks use the toll bridge.

He thinks semi drivers and farmers hauling grain will use the new U.S. 34 route to avoid stop-and-go traffic through Plattsmouth and save fuel, and that many Plattsmouth and Glenwood, Iowa, residents will still use the old toll bridge because it's an easy way to cross the Missouri River and saves them several miles. The toll for a car is $1.50.

The new route consists of approximately 7 miles of four-lane divided highway with bridge approaches on both sides of the Missouri. Officials say the project provides easy access across the river and supports future economic development between the states.

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"I think it's very important from an economic development standpoint. It will open that Highway 34 corridor for business attraction and development," said Larry Burks, Bellevue's assistant city administrator.

He said he did not know what effect the new bridge will have on the privately owned Bellevue toll bridge that serves drivers using Nebraska 370.

Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman are scheduled to speak at a 9 a.m. dedication ceremony Wednesday at AgriVision in Pacific Junction, Iowa, and then drive across the new bridge. The bridge should open about 3 p.m.

In all the project cost $115 million, including approaches and a new interchange on the Nebraska side of the river, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads. Eighty percent was paid with federal money, with Nebraska and Iowa each picking up 10 percent.

Nebraska spent $21 million on the new U.S. 75/34 intersection, $16 million for its bridge approach and $24 million on the new bridge, said Roads Department spokeswoman Mary Jo Oie.

Other bridges carry traffic over the Missouri River in Southeast Nebraska at Nebraska City, Brownville and Rulo.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

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