An Emergency Effort to Repair the U.S. Highway 281 Bridge

In 2021, we were honored to win the Grand Award - the top honor given by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Nebraska - for leading the emergency repair of the U.S. Highway 281 bridge spanning the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts called our work to restore the bridge a “feat of engineering” during the bridge reopening celebration in October 2020, about a year and a half after historic flooding rendered the bridge useless in March 2019.

Our work began when we were selected by the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) to lead emergency response efforts to restore the bridge and about 1,000 feet of roadway destroyed by flooding following the breach of a nearby dam.

Partnering with NDOT and Hawkins Construction, our multidisciplinary engineering and environmental efforts included civil and geotechnical engineering, geotechnical investigation and design, bridge inspection and design, roadway design, environmental planning and permitting, and hydrology and hydraulics.

Completing the project on such a constricted deadline required tight coordination from the start. We completed preliminary engineering designs for the new permanent bridge, a temporary bridge and the new bridge approach in only 27 days. Before the initial temporary bridge was in place, motorists were forced to take detours of up to 127 miles.

Chris Hawkins, of our construction partner, said the project may represent the most significant challenge undertaken by his company during nearly a century in business. Jon Olsen, one of our leaders on the project, said he had never seen anything like it in more than 25 years in the profession.

Aaron Keller
Senior Team Leader
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