Omaha’s Mayor wants IA DOT to elevate I-680 to prevent damage from future flooding


October 12th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

I-680 torn-up by Missouri River Flooding, Summer 2011 (IA-DOT photo)

The Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska says Missouri River flooding that decimated Interstate 680 in western Iowa demonstrates the need to have that stretch of road elevated, to avoid future devastation caused by floodwaters. Jim Suttle, addressing the Iowa Transportation Commission Tuesday, in Council Bluffs, also asked officials to consider doing the same thing for parts of flood-affected Interstate 29.

Suttle said western Iowa relies on Eppley Airfield in Omaha, just as Omaha relies on the Interstate system in Iowa. According to the Omaha-World Herald, Suttle said “Let’s figure out how we can work together so that we can deal with the flooding situations in the future, but also assuring that our transportation system stays in place if we do have another catastrophic event like the flood of 2011.”  Suttle’s remarks were part of the public comment portion of the meeting. No action was taken on his request, and the commission members did not respond during the meeting.

A 3.1-mile stretch of Interstate 680 between Omaha and Crescent, Iowa, was massively damaged during the summer’s Missouri River floods and remains closed. The Interstate runs perpendicular to the flow of the Missouri. Floodwaters undermined the roadway, and caused it to collapse.

Suttle, a civil engineer by training, suggested raising parts of the Interstates to 1 foot above the so-called 100-year flood level, but Commissioner Barry Cleaveland of Council Bluffs, who works in Omaha, expressed skepticism. Cleaveland said it would be cost-prohibitive, to the tune of several billion dollars, at least. .He also didn’t know how high I-680 would have to be raised, in order to meet Suttle’s request.

Omaha television station KETV reported Tuesday, 100 construction workers are on the job 24/7 to repair I-680, and they’re just days away from pouring cement.  The $20 million effort has those crews, working 16 to 24 hour shifts. They’ve already removed hundreds of thousands of tons of damaged interstate.  Peterson Contractors and Reilly Construction started work a week and a half ago, and almost all the torn up freeway has been recycled into the new construction. In fact, work has progressed so well, the westbound lanes of I-680 are nearly ready for paving.  Construction officials say they hope to have traffic flowing again by December 23rd.