Closing of Omaha’s 42nd Street Bridge could be trouble for small businesses

Two family-owned businesses are hoping to survive a construction project that will shut down the 42nd Street bridge south of I-80.
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 5:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Two family-owned businesses are hoping to survive a construction project that will shut down the 42nd Street bridge in Omaha.

The bridge is more than 60 years old and covers C and D streets and runs over railroad tracks.

It’s also in need of repair, but two businesses in the area are hoping they’re still around when the project is complete.

Officials say close to 40,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day.

But that’s all changed. A few drivers managed to wiggle one more trip across the bridge, but cones were set up to redirect traffic and barricades blocked the road.

Larry Eckley’s car dealership has been on the south end of the bridge since 1996. He says the shutdown will hurt business.

“They said that it would be completed December of 2023,” Eckley said. “So you’re talking about 14 months of really no activity like we’re going to be in a cul-de-sac. So it’s going to affect us tremendously I believe.”

Eckley says losing thousands of eyes on his inventory will force him to make adjustments.

“We’re going to have to do a lot more advertising online. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, you know American Classified, stuff like that.

Right now the garage is full at Pitstop, with lots of people getting tires, brakes and tune-ups, but owner Tim Parys says that most likely will change when the bridge shuts down.

“Oh it’s going to be dramatic, there’s no ifs, ands or buts,” Parys said.

Parys has been doing business in the area for 40 years. He says there was a meeting discussing the bridge closure about three years ago. He wanted to see work crews rebuild the bridge one side at a time, but the city decided to do it all at once.

“I prepared for the bridge going down with one side at a time, not this.”

City officials say that doing the rebuild would take 30 months to complete and would create a risky traffic situation for drivers. Officials believe it’s more efficient and safer to do all the work at once.

Parys is just hoping he can live through all the growing pains.

“I don’t know, I’ve got enough funds for maybe six months if it’s not as bad, but I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that.”

Larry Eckley is hoping his customer base and his good reputaton help his dealship get through the construction period.