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Hay truck mishaps keep emergency crews on the job
Nebraska was a "fly over" state long before airliners were invented, but most of the traffic ran east and west, rather than north and south.
That's not the situation now, when Highway 83 has become a major "hay corridor" for huge semi trucks hauling big round bales of fodder to drought-ravaged Texas.
One official estimated 50 trucks a day roll through the area, but we think that may be a conservative estimate, and that's only those that take Highway 83.
The vast majority of them make it safely, but emergency crews have been keeping busy taking care of those that don't. Red Willow Western Rural Fire Department has responded to two hay truck fires this fall, and helped out with a wreck Tuesday McCook's west intersection, U.S. Highways 83 and 6-34.
Tuesday's wreck involved a truck that for some reason didn't make the sharp corner required to turn down B Street before heading back south at the Sixth Street viaduct.
McCook isn't an easy town for trucks to drive through, but improving the route would be a difficult proposition as well.
Creating a bypass heading straight south from the intersection would be cost prohibitive because of the elevations involved, not to mention disruption of a business, sale barn and railroad. It might be possible to "round" out the corner to make it easier for hay trucks and semis carrying oversized freight like wind turbine blades. That wouldn't help the situation at East Sixth and B, where trucks are forced to make a sharp right onto the viaduct, disrupting traffic as well.
It's good that hay is available to help out livestock producers in the south, and farmers in the north are able to fill that need by shipping it south. That's what commerce is all about.
It's also good that so many trucks make the long and expensive trip safely, due in no small part to strict enforcement of trucking regulations.
The hay situation is temporary, we hope, but as the economy revives, Highway 83 is likely to resume its importance as a north-south travel corridor.
Southwest Nebraskans need to plan now on the best ways to cope with, and benefit from, that increased traffic.