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Chris Geelhart

Last Update: 7/11/2006
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Nebraska Highway Facts

Much of this information was obtained from A Story of Highway Development in Nebraska (1997 rev.), by George E. Koster.

History of Nebraska rural speed limits:
  • 1905: 20 mph
  • 1919: 35 mph
  • 1931: 45 mph for cars, 35 mph for trucks
  • 1937: 50 mph
  • 1939: 60 mph during the day, 50 mph at night
  • 1941: 60 mph during the day, 50 mph at night; trucks over 5 tons limited to 40 mph
  • 1945: 60 mph during the day, 50 mph at night
  • 1960: 65 mph during the day, 55 mph at night
  • 1962: Interstates: 75 mph for cars, 65 mph for trucks. Other roads: 65 mph during the day, 55 mph at night.
  • 1964: Interstates: 75 mph for cars, 65 mph for trucks. Other roads: for cars, 65 mph during the day, and 55 mph at night; for trucks, 60 mph during the day, and 50 mph at night.
  • 1966: Interstates: 75 mph for cars, 65 mph for trucks. Other roads: for cars, 65 mph during the day, 60 mph at night; for trucks, 60 mph during the day, 50 mph at night.
  • 1973: Interstates: 75 mph for cars, 65 mph for trucks. Other roads: 65 mph for cars; for trucks, 65 mph during the day, and 60 mph at night.
  • 1974: 55 mph
  • 1987: Interstates: 65 mph. Other roads: 55 mph
  • 1996: Interstates: 75 mph. Rural 4-lane divided highways: 65 mph (or as posted). Other roads: 60 mph

Interstate Facts:

The first Interstate segment opened was a 6.4 mile segment of I-80 near Gretna, in November 1959; the contract was bid for this in June 1957. *

* In December 1954, a bid was put out to relocate US-30 between Kimball and the Cheyenne County line, a 14.8 mile stretch. Completed in October 1955 (and not related to the 1956 act that created the Interstate system as we currently know it), it included grading, structures, 4 lanes of right-of-way (two of which were actually paved), and limited at-grade access. US-30 was rerouted onto the eastbound lanes; the westbound side wasn't constructed until 1973, at which time the whole segment became part of I-80.

The cost of I-80 construction (1957-1974) was $390 million ($857,000 per mile).

The "Golden Link" is made up of gold (brass) plates embedded in I-80, 5 miles west of Sidney. This represents where the last segment of I-80 was completed. A ceremony was held October 19, 1974, and represented Nebraska's feat of being the first state to complete its mainline Interstate.

In 1968, a request was made for funding for 246.3 miles of Interstate in Nebraska. This included a proposal for an Interstate from York to Saline, KS (meeting up with what is now I-135 in Kansas), and an Interstate from Lincoln to South Sioux City (presumably an upgrade of US-77). Of these, only a 2.5 mile segment was funded, to begin construction of the current I-129.

Summary of Interstate completion in Nebraska:

  • I-76: Length 3.15 miles; completed 1969
  • I-80: Length 455.27 miles; completed 1974
  • I-129: Length 3.21 miles; completed 1977
  • I-180: Length 3.47 miles; completed 1964
  • I-480: Length 4.15 miles; completed 1970
  • I-680: Length 13.43 miles; completed 1975

Total Interstate miles in Nebraska: 482.68

Other Miscellaneous Nebraska Road Facts:

State highway system statistics:
Year Total Mileage Miles of Gravel Road Miles of Dirt Road
1926 5,330 726 4,477
1930 9,752 * 4,760 1,725
1940 11,220 ** 4,784 412
1950 9.578 5,062 130
1960 9,282 2,634 64
1970 9,725 783 34
1996 9,948 79 0

* - Only 6,882 miles were maintained.
** - Only 9,000 miles were maintained.

The first federal funding for a Nebraska road was granted on February 17, 1855, when Congress approved construction of a military road from Omaha to Fort Kearny.

The first automobile in Nebraska reported traveled through Lincoln in 1902.

The first Federal Aid Project (FAP) in Nebraska, FAP 1, was started July 1918 in Lincoln, on the road between Lincoln and Emerald (West O St.).

A county prefix numbering system was implemented in 1922, for vehicle licensing. Counties were numbered based on total vehicle registration, going from greatest to least. Douglas County was assigned as #1, and Hooker County was #93. These numbers are still used today.

The first Nebraska drivers licenses were issued in 1929, for a fee of 75 cents.

The first official highway markers were dedicated on June 5, 1926. These were for the co-sign of US-38 and N-11 in Lincoln.

On November 5, 1935, the last paved segment of the Lincoln Memorial Highway (US-30) was opened west of North Platte.

The U.S. War Department identified the "Strategic Network of Highways" in 1941. Considered important for military purposes, highways in this network given top priority for materials and funding. Nebraska had 3 main routes in this network:

  • US-75 from the Kansas line to Omaha.
  • US-30A (present N-92) from the Missouri River to Clarks, and US-30 from Clarks to the Wyoming line.
  • US-81 from the Kansas line to Norfolk; US-275 from Norfolk to O'Neill; and US-281 from O'Neill to the South Dakota line.

Nebraska's first 4-lane, divided highway was completed on December 8, 1941 (the day after the Pearl Harbor attack.) This highway was US-73/75 from the south Omaha city limits to Fort Crook. The Martin Bomber Plant at Fort Crook was the one that manufactured the particular B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb.

During the 1948-49 winter season, approximately $1.2 million was spent on snow removal. Significant snowstorms began in November, and continued periodically through the end of March. During the Blizzard of 1949 (January 2-7), about 8,000 miles (80%) of roads were blocked due to falling and blowing snow. Most were reopened in time to be drifted shut again on January 15th. Although eventually most highways would at least have one lane width plowed, it wasn't until April 7th that all state highways were reopened to 2-way traffic.

Nebraska is one of 5 states that do not have a "Department of Transportation".

If you stand in the middle of the intersection of N-9 and 1st St. in Emerson, you are standing in 3 counties at once (Dakota, Dixon, Thurston).