Pedestrian walk one step closer at Hershey

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The weather was pleasant for a big project Tuesday at the Hershey at-grade railroad crossing. Hershey townfolk gathered around to watch as the pedestrian crossing, built by Cohran of Iowa, was "walked" across the railroad tracks by two very large cranes.
It took coordinated efforts by the Union Pacific Railroad and the Department of Transportation, along with Cohran workers, to time everything right. North crossing gates were removed by railroad signalmen, and wooden matting was placed across the tracks by Cohran employees. Railroad officials were in contact with their people, notifying workers when it was safe to be on the tracks. As soon as the railroad was ready to stop traffic, the remaining matting was placed, and the crane attached to the structure.
It took approximately two hours - the amount of time allotted by the railroad - for the process. The structure was bolted down, and train traffic resumed within minutes.
Gary Becker, Highway Projects Manager with the Department of Transportation, said that it will take about two months, weather permitting, for the ramps to be built, and for the structure to be functional. He explained that this will be the fifth pedestrian crossing of its kind in District 6 of the Department of Transportation.
"The whole project," (which has taken nearly 20 years from conception to letting), "was to eliminate at-grade crossings.," said Becker.
In the 1990's the Hershey crossing was the busiest at-grade crossing in the world due to the traffic in the Union Pacific corridor from O'Fallons to North Platte.
John and Dede Adams of Hershey said that before the viaduct was put into use it was not uncommon to wait for four to five trains at a time on a trip through Hershey.
Kip Jorgenson of Hershey owns the lumberyard, Home Lumber and Supply. He said that his grandfather and father would not have liked the structure, but that it is a necessary evil. "We can't have vehicles backed up," he said, "but, it negatively affects businesses. People are spontaneous, and small town businesses are basically convenience stores - not much more. It's a fact of life. It has been in the works for 20 years."
According to Becker the structure will be ready for use in approximately two months, weather permitting. The pedestrian walkway will be ADA accessible.