- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

AMES, Iowa (AP) - The new U.S. Highway 34 bridge connecting Nebraska and Iowa is scheduled to open Wednesday and, officials say, is expected to generate development on both sides of the Missouri River.

Included in the project is about seven miles of new, four-lane divided highway extending west of the U.S. 34/Interstate 29 interchange in Iowa to U.S. Highway 75 between Plattsmouth and Bellevue, Nebraska. The bridge is expected carry 2,000 vehicles a day.

“I think it’s very important from an economic development standpoint. It will open that Highway 34 corridor for business attraction and development,” Larry Burks, Bellevue’s assistant city administrator, told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Larry Winum, president of the Mills County Economic Development Foundation in Iowa, estimated 3,000 acres of land are open for development on each side of the river.

“We’ve got a huge goal of having all kinds of development there,” Winum told the Omaha World-Herald earlier this month.

Growth also is expected in the area south of Offutt Air Force Base, south of Omaha.

The bridge completion also is the start of a large-scale road project for southwest Iowa. Mills County officials are pushing to expand U.S. Highway 34 to a four-lane highway all the way to Interstate 35 in Osceola in Clarke County, about an hour south of Des Moines.

The 3,276-foot-long bridge was a joint project of the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Nebraska Department of Roads and took nearly three years to build. Its opening gives motorists an alternative to the winding, stop-and-go route through Plattsmouth that required paying a toll at the old bridge.

Including the approaches, the bridge project cost $115 million.

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