Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Highway that Almost Never Was ...

This is not a street oddity, it's a highway oddity! :)

All of us know countless highways which were widened and expanded from 2-lane to 4-lane over the years.

However, we very seldom see or hear of those which are downgraded or "shrunk" from 4-lane to 2-lane. I think I found one!

State route 36, sometimes known as the Bennington Road or Pawnee Road, is a 2-lane highway beginning with McKinley Street in north Omaha, running northwestward on the north side of the Omaha metro area, and eventually connecting with US 275 between the communities of Valley and Fremont.

Years and years ago, probably in the 1980s, when I first remember traveling on this stretch, I recall seeing an un-opened parallel lane and thinking "oh good, they're widening it to 4 lanes", but each and every time I traveled that way, the "new" lanes were never opened, and they appeared to be decaying over time.

The stretch we're talking about is on SR-36, in the general vicinity of Cunningham Lake and Dam Site 11, just north of metropolitan Omaha. Two additional east-west lanes parallel the main highway to the north.

The additional two lanes are obvious on an aerial view, and it sure looks like this was intended to be a 4-lane highway.

The intersections with the local roads appear to be built out across all 4 lanes, appearing to be normal 4-lane intersections.

Access to the "new" lanes is barricaded in several places, but it is possible to drive on them in a few areas.

A few stretches are in reasonably good repair.

Recently striped, appearing they may have been used temporarily over the past few years.

Other areas, however, are badly cracked and in poor shape, indicating years, decades of neglect.

And in a couple of places it looks like the spare lanes are used for storage of barricades and such.

When I ventured out to take these photos, it appeared like they were finishing up a resurfacing job on the main 2 lanes.

Notice the fresh dark asphalt on the two main lanes.

One clue as to the intent of this particular section is given by the placement of what appears to be a recently-placed telephone pole directly in the path of the additional lanes, should they be paved through in this area.

Before I wrote this item, I asked around, but nobody really seemed to know too much about this stretch. Several said they had noticed the lanes, but didn't think much of them. I guess they are not as curious as I am. :)

One friend did say that he vaguely remembers the lanes being open maybe 1979 or so. The conclusion seems to be that they were constructed during the 1970s as Cunningham Lake filled, with the intent of eventually widening SR-36 to 4 lanes, but that the project was scaled back and the existing additional lanes closed off.

Anybody else know anything? :)