Dual divide freeway set to open between Council Bluffs and Omaha

Published: Aug. 15, 2019 at 5:53 PM CDT
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People traveling between Omaha and Council Bluffs are going to see some big changes to the I-80, I-29 Expressway.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is set to open the eastbound dual divided freeway in just a matter of days.

Samantha Christensen travels from Council Bluffs to South Omaha to see her family at least five times a week.

"You see people drastically changing lanes constantly from the inside lane to 'oh I need to be over now',” said Christensen.

That's exactly what the divided freeway is designed to prevent when it opens August 19. Christensen is happy to hear that; she’s had a lot of close calls.

"Oh, all the time. For a long time I didn't even drive the interstate because that happened so much,” said Christensen.

IDOT officials said so far the divide is working on the westbound expressway, which opened in March.

The physical barrier means drivers have to be certain about the interstate they want to be on.

If wanting to go into Council Bluffs, or get onto the South Expressway, drivers need to take exit 1B and connect to 1-29 South. Those not needing to exit, stay on 1-80 and keep cruising east.

IDOT Traffic Engineer Austin Yates explained this will keep traffic flowing a lot better than before.

“There are lots of merges and weaving patterns, so we're separating the traffic that wants to stop in town and the traffic that doesn't need to stop in town, in Council Bluffs."

For some people, the changes have been confusing. Craig Vranda said he got caught on the wrong interstate when the westbound divide first opened. But if you pay attention, he said it’s not so bad.

“The signs are pretty good. the signs, once you look at them and stay north or west - if you stay Omaha you'll go to Omaha,” said Vranda. “If you stay north you'll stay in Council Bluffs."

Officials are asking people to do just that -- pay attention to the signs -- and they believe the transition is going to be a lot easier.

Yates said IDOT is about halfway through a 10-year project to improve about 18 miles of combined interstate on I-80, I-29, and I-480.