In September 1935, an enormous highway and grade crossing elimination program was approved by the state Public Works Administration (PWA) officials and was forwarded to Washington for final approval. The large number of projects would amount to a financial outlay of $3,614,500.00 in PWA funds, and an estimated $80,000.00 of the total would be spent on a grade separation at the intersection of Highway 281 and the Union Pacific tracks in Hastings. Although specifics had not yet been shared with the public, it was thought that the project would include an overpass near 16th Street and Kansas Avenue. The highway would be rerouted through Hastings north on Burlington Avenue to 16th Street, thence east to St. Joseph Avenue, where the overpass approach would start, northeast over the tracks and continuing in that direction to meet the highway.
In May, 1936, work on the Highway 281 overpass began. Thiesen Brothers was hired to move earth for the approaches. A mechanical loader was used to fill dirt from a borrow pit into trucks for the approach. A roller was used to pack the dirt into place. The work started in a field north of the tracks and east of Kansas Avenue. Koehler Construction Company received the contract for building the viaduct itself. One by one, enormous concrete pillars were built to support the new Union Pacific overpass on Highway 281. The overpass was completed by the end of October, 1936, and was formally opened by a program at which Governor Roy Cochran was the principal speaker. The viaduct was finished in time to make the January 16, 1937 Year in Review issue.
Traffic coming from the north approached the new overpass on an easy curve that diverged from the old route of the highway at the point where a sharp turn had existed as a traffic hazard for many years. The overpass was built on a horizontal curve of 5.5 degrees and one approached from the north heads straight west on 16th Street upon leaving the structure. New paving linked the “skyway” with Burlington Avenue, a gradual curve replacing the old square turn at 16th and Burlington. All told, the 570 foot long overpass cost $103,000.00.
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Hastings Daily Tribune, 7 September 1935. Hastings Daily Tribune, 30 May 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 30 July 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 22 October 1936. Hastings Daily Tribune, 16 January 1937. Hastings Daily Tribune, 24 October 1936.
Project originally submitted by Jill Dolberg on July 8, 2015.
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