The east leg of the elevated roadway near the Devaney Center opened this morning, about nine months ahead of schedule. The project completes the Big "X," a major feature of the Antelope Valley Project traffic improvements. Cutting the ribbon to open the new bridge and roadway were Mayor Chris Beutler; Glenn Johnson, General Manager of the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District (LPSNRD); and a representative of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. The City, LPSNRD and UNL are partners in the Antelope Valley Project, which also includes flood control and community revitalization efforts.
"This is another important milestone for the historic Antelope Valley Project," Mayor Beutler said. "An efficient transportation system drives investment, and the Big 'X' is one of the biggest traffic improvements in recent history. I want to thank U.S. Senator Ben Nelson for his terrific work to secure the federal funding to make this possible." Beutler also thanked U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a former Lincoln City Council member, and U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, a former Lincoln Mayor, for their continued support of Antelope Valley.
Future vehicle counts on the Big "X" are estimated to be 44,400 vehicles per day. The Big "X" also spans one of the busiest railroad corridors in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) system. Before completion of the elevated roadway, about 48 trains blocked pedestrian and vehicle traffic for about five hours every day. The removal of the at-grade crossings has two more positive benefits: BNSF will now be able to expand the number of tracks and trains in the corridor. And the "quiet zone" - the area where locomotive horns are not routinely sounded - can be extended from 6th and "L" streets to 70th Street and Cornhusker Highway.
The east leg includes about 4,500 feet of new roadway and a 1,100-foot bridge, which required more than 7 million pounds of steel. The 220-ton steel "straddle cap" - the structural bridge base that rests on the columns - was shipped in three sections, pre-assembled and lifted in place in August 2008. The operation, conducted by Hawkins Construction, was the largest steel pickup in Nebraska history.
The other three legs of the elevated intersection opened in 2006. The entire Big "X" project includes 1.5 lane miles of bridge deck and 7.5 lane miles of new pavement - 5.4 on the main legs and 2.1 on the frontage streets.
The flood reduction component on Antelope Creek, designed and constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is nearly completed. "The remaining work includes final grading and seeding in certain sections, and the final touches will be added to the low-flow channel and some of the amenities in the Union Plaza area," Johnson said.. "The new two-mile long open waterway is fully functional to handle a 100-year rain event without overbank flooding, essentially removing over 400 acres, 800 buildings and 1,200 residents from the floodplain."
The waterway runs from"J" Street to Salt Creek at the future UNL Innovation Campus. It is anticipated that the Letter of Map Revision, effectively revising the floodplain for regulatory purposes, will be approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency by August 2010. The next phase of the Union Plaza development is expected to start early next year.
In addition to Innovation Campus, other new investment in the Antelope Valley Project area includes the UNL's renovation of the former Whittier Junior High into research space; construction of the new $53 million headquarters for Assurity Life Insurance Co.; and the creation of the Antelope Village housing development.
The Antelope Valley Project recently won a 2009 National Bentley Systems "Be Inspired" Awards Competition. The project received a Special Recognition Award for Sustaining Our Environment. Bentley System develops Microstation, the computer software used to design major projects. The project was nominated by Olsson Associates.
More information on the Antelope Valley Project is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: antelope).