HEARTLAND FLOOD: Why temporary highway stoplights were removed

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CASS COUNTY, Nebraska (WOWT) -- The devastation of area highways by the Heartland Flood this year resulted in several detours that dramatically increased traffic levels, prompting the installation of temporary traffic signals at key intersections.

Highways 6 and 75 were two that had temporary stoplights installed at key intersections. Those signals have been since been removed, but drivers in the areas want to know why.

Intersections in Ashland at Highways 6 and 66; and Highways 75 and 1 outside Murray, south of Plattsmouth, were experiencing higher than normal traffic flows during the floods.

So the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) installed temporary stoplights.

They have since been removed.

“I thought it was a good convenience for everybody to not have an accident,” said Jeremy Jones of Ashland. “It's just people not wanting to pay attention and I'm afraid there's going to be more accidents there.”

NDOT Deputy Director for Engineering Khalil Jaber said the department has to follow federal guidelines when it comes to permanent installation of lights on highways.

“We communicated from the get-go that these were temporary measures and once we go back to pre-flooding volumes, our intent is to remove it,” he said. “We did the count on Highway 75 and Junction 1 and it did go back to the pre-flooding numbers.”

That also happened in Ashland.

Jaber said every instance is unique but there are nine criteria that must be met for permanent lights.

Those include constant traffic flows during the day, volume of turning traffic, and what drivers expect while traveling a highway.

Jaber said if guidelines are not followed, NDOT could lose federal funding and face lawsuits if there's a wreck at the intersection.

“If I put something out there that did not meet warrants, I just caused potentially or contributed to the reason of a crash,” he said.

With 10,000 highway miles across the state, Jaber said following federal guidelines ensures that when changes are necessary at an intersection, lights will be permanent for all the right reasons.

Jaber said NDOT plans to revisit the Highway 6 intersection in Ashland later this month or in September.

He said should the numbers shift and signal warrants are met, NDOT will program a project there.