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New safety measures in works for Highway 275

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 6:34 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A recent accident on a slick and busy overpass shows how first responders are being put in harm’s way.

The cruiser camera video captures the dangerous situation.

As first responders tend to crash victims ahead, waterloo Police Chief Tim Donahue worries he’ll be hit from behind.

The cruiser camera pointed forward, but we hear the chief take evasive action while watching his rear-view mirror.

Even on a frosty morning, some drivers don’t back off much if at all crossing the Highway 275 overpass.

Chief Tim Donahue, Waterloo Police said, “It really rattles you because you’ve got vehicles going at 70 miles an hour plus and you’re just a sitting duck.”

But we’ve learned first responders will be getting the break they need. District engineer Tim Weander tells me dynamic electronic message boards like this are on the drawing board for the Highway 275 expressway west of Omaha.

“Any little thing that we can put out there just to alert drivers and kind of wake them up and let them know there’s some type of an accident or incident ahead,” said Donahue.

Waterloo store manager and retired sheriff’s deputy Charlie Rehmeier drives the 275 overpass daily.

“Signboards would be positive. Any forewarning, they can give them coming into an ice or moisture situation warning, helpful,” said Rehmeier.

Several Interstate 80 entrance ramps have railroad crossing guard arms to close off traffic in bad weather or emergencies. The state will install ones like these at some interchanges along the 275 Expressway.

And the Waterloo Police Chief says one of those gates could be helpful at this entrance ramp to 275. That’s because oftentimes when there are emergency vehicles are told to exit here, but they’ll just cross over and get back on here.

Ramp closing gates and electronic message boards will be a welcome addition for first responders to Highway 275 emergencies.

“Anything we can have to assist us yeah. I don’t know what else to do other than having to stop each car and tell them to slow down,” said Donahue.

The district engineer can’t say how soon the new safety equipment will be installed along Highway 275. But first responders are invited to a meeting.

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