LINCOLN, NE – The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) gathered with Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and other state and local officials last week to celebrate progress on the $352 million Lincoln South Beltway project. The Beltway is one of the largest projects ever undertaken by the DOT and will provide a new east-west connection between US Highway 77 and Nebraska Highway 2.
Designed to improve safety, reduce conflicts, and facilitate travel along the city’s southern boundary, the Lincoln South Beltway will be transformative for the region. The existing east-west corridor is a congested four-lane divided arterial through Lincoln with 15 traffic signals, where non-local semi-trucks account for nearly 20% of traffic. When complete, the Beltway will bring 11 miles of new freeway to the area, with two system interchanges, three service interchanges, 23 bridges, 11 roundabouts, and 43 miles of existing roadway realignment throughout the corridor.
While construction has only recently begun, the Lincoln South Beltway’s design—led by Alfred Benesch & Company—has been decades in the making.
“Benesch has been working with NDOT, City of Lincoln, Lancaster County and FHWA on the Lincoln South Beltway project since the mid-1990s,” said Benesch Project Manager Tony Dirks, PE. “When construction funding was identified in 2013, design and environmental efforts resumed. The preliminary design supported an environmental assessment that was signed in the spring of 2018, and final design efforts started immediately after.”
Dirks managed the consultant design team during the Beltway’s final design phase, which included more than 130 Benesch team members from nine of the firm’s offices.
“A few months into the final design, we received a request to further accelerate the schedule. Benesch was certainly up to the challenge—we committed the resources necessary to deliver a design that would exceed stakeholder expectations and meet NDOT’s desired deadline,” said Dirks.
With such a large multidisciplinary team involved, a non-standard management approach was necessary to maintain the aggressive schedule without sacrificing the quality of the design. Benesch developed a proactive communication plan which empowered each technical lead to work directly with NDOT staff and address engineering-related matters as the project progressed. As technical leads from the consultant team worked directly with their NDOT counterparts, Dirks was able to stay informed of all matters pertaining to the project’s overall schedule, scope and budget.
The approach proved highly successful. In all, more than 42,000 manhours were logged by the consultant team during the Lincoln South Beltway’s final design.
Construction activity began at the project site in May 2020, where the contractor has already moved nearly three million cubic yards of dirt to make way for the new beltway. An innovative financing approach will allow both NDOT and the travelling public to realize the project’s benefits in as little as three years, with full project completion in the spring of 2024—nearly four years ahead of the original schedule.
(pictured top: Construction for the Lincoln South Beltway continues at the future site of the 38th Street interchange. Photo courtesy of Hawkins Construction Company).