Road work puts McCook in line for future growth

Friday, November 18, 2005

Look nationwide, and it would be hard to find a town anywhere with a more up-to-date, in-town highway system than McCook, Nebraska.

We can say that today because over the past dozen years -- from Jan. 20, 1994 to Nov. 18, 2005 -- U.S. Highway 6-34 has been entirely rebuilt from the west side of town to the east, and U.S. Highway 83 has been widened and improved from West B Street to the northern edge of town.

The final phase of the massive, 12-year construction program is now being completed, with crews from Werner Construction of Hastings putting the finishing touches on a U.S. 6-34 project stretching from East Seventh Street to the eastern edge of town. All that remains are the placement of permanent highway markings, which will be done next spring when warmer weather arrives.

All together, going back to the U.S. 83 south viaduct project in the 1980s, McCook's in-town highway rebuilding program has covered 5.3 miles and cost $17.6 million dollars. That's a large amount of money, especially for a town with less than 8,000 population. But, of even more significance than the amount is the difference the highway projects have made in the community.

To realize the extent of the change, we need to think back to 1993. At the time, U.S. Highway 83 north was only a two-lane road with open ditches. Business development was in its early stages.

B Street -- which carries U.S. 6-34-83 traffic through town -- was not much better, with center medians peeling and chipping, and lack of turning lanes leading to an excessive number of rear-end traffic collisions.

Now, take a look. The North Highway 83 corridor has taken off, with major investments in commercial enterprises transforming the area into a major business center. Looking to the edges of town, the Work Ethic Camp to the north, Wal-Mart Super Center to the west, the Valmont Irrigation plant to the south and Outdoor Sports to the east are all symbols of the turn-around which has taken place.

The business development is an added plus, over and above the benefit of having smoother, wider, safer highways through town. As a community, we are fortunate beneficiaries of the highway department's planning, expertise and funding and the aid supplied by the city's 20 percent cost share.

Not only are the excellent in-town highways an accomplishment, they are also an opportunity. As shown by the North 83 expansion, the highways can be a launch pad for further development.

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