This time last year counties across the state were preparing applications for a new Nebraska Department of Roads program that matches funds on country bridge projects.
In January, the state awarded a total of $4 million to 68 projects.
Of the four projects in the Columbus area, two bridges were in such bad shape they were closed.
Colfax County Highway Superintendent Mark Arps applied for grant funding for five bridge projects, and received money for two bridges located about 7 miles east of Howells.
“One totally fell in. The road is closed,” said Arps. “They were some of the worst ones.”
The grant amount for both projects was $107,000, which Arps said would cover some of the materials.
“We would have done it anyway,” he said of the repairs. “(The grant) releases funds for other bridges and other projects that are in dire need of being replaced.”
Arps said he’ll "absolutely" apply for the funds again, even though Colfax County will have a lower priority since it already received money. He has a long list of bridges to repair, and the program is scheduled to end in 2023.
“The Department of Roads are doing their best,” he said. “But with the (state) budget shortfall, it’s difficult to ask more from them.”
Merrick County Highway Superintendent Mike Meyer only applied for two bridges and received funding for both. The county has planned to repair those bridges, located near Archer along Prairie Creek, for about a decade.
“One of them is closed right now,” said Meyer, adding that the project's have been on the one- and six-year road plans since 2007.
With the grant funding of approximately $200,000, the county has the opportunity to make it happen.
“The plans that we had were outdated, so they’re updating those plans,” said Meyer. “I think they’re shooting for a bid this winter or late fall.”
Meyer believes the two bridges were selected for state funding because they're close together, making the projects more economical and stretching the limited amount of dollars available.
Plus, they'll make a big difference for Merrick County drivers.
“It would help this area to have both of those up and going because of traffic,” Meyer said.
Platte, Polk and Butler counties all applied for the program, but none received funding.
Platte County Highway Superintendent Terry Wicht plans to apply again with five projects in mind.
Polk and Butler counties both submitted one bridge project and are still considering whether to reapply moving forward.
Meyer has six bridges on his one- and six-year road plans and said he’ll apply for funds for two or three more projects.
“There’s a lot of bridges that need it,” he said of the program.