New Lincoln South Beltway befuddling for some truckers, other motorists

State transportation official says signage switch not yet complete; may take more time for drivers to adjust to new route

By: - December 23, 2022 2:05 pm
Lincoln South Beltway

More than a week after the Lincoln South Beltway opened for traffic, some drivers, including this trucker, are missing a turn and driving onward to a gravel road southeast of Lincoln. (courtesy Algis Laukaitis)

LINCOLN — The Lincoln South Beltway has been open for just over a week, but some motorists appear to still be bewildered about getting on the four-lane expressway.

A reporter who drove the area on Thursday found at least two, eastbound semi-trailer trucks who mistakenly turned onto the old route through south Lincoln, one that takes trucks on a stop-and-go urban street with 17 stoplights, rather than continuing on to the 11-mile, $352-million beltway.

And, at the east end of old Nebraska Highway 2, a reporter followed an eastbound SUV who missed the turn out of Lincoln and onto the beltway — a miscue that led the SUV past some rural acreages and onto a two-lane, gravel road, where it made a U-turn.

Lincoln South Beltway
If motorists miss this turn from the old Highway 2 onto the new beltway, the road ahead extends by some rural acreages and, in less than a mile, becomes a gravel road. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

One rural Lincoln resident snapped a photo of an off-track trucker who recently missed that turn, and was attempting a U-turn on a gravel intersection on 120th Street.

Algis Laukaitis, who lives southeast of Lincoln, questioned the design of the intersection on the east edge of Lincoln. It now requires eastbound traffic out of Lincoln to stop and take a left turn onto the bypass — a turn traffic is often missing Laukaitis said — rather than flowing directly onto the new expressway.

Tom Casady, a former public safety director in Lincoln, took to Twitter on Wednesday to point out, to state highway officials, the errant ways of some semis at the west end of Lincoln.

“Hey, @NebraskaDOT, lots of us are noticing that E/B semis are missing the bypass, and continuing through town (and 17 lights) on Nebraska Pkwy,” Casady tweeted.

Casady, in a later interview on Thursday, blamed a lack of good signage directing eastbound traffic to continue southward on U.S. 77 to the new beltway, and past the turn onto Van Dorn Street for the old route through south Lincoln.

Lincoln South Beltway
According to a former Lincoln official, motorists are missing the west entrance onto the Lincoln South Beltway, which opened on Dec. 14, and instead using the old route of  Nebraska Highway 2 through south Lincoln. Another resident is noticing semis failing to get onto the beltway at the east end of the beltway, forcing them to make a U-turn on gravel roads.
(Courtesy of Nebraska Department of Transportation)

“Better signage will help,” Casady said. “Truckers are just used to taking that (old) route … maybe it will shake out in a couple of weeks.”

Better signage, and removing old signs, is still in progress, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Transportation said Thursday.

Jeni Campana of NDOT said that not all signs have been “flipped” in the area denoting the new route. Plus, there’s always a “learning curve” in travelers adjusting to new routes, she said.

“In our planning meetings, we knew it would take time,” Campana said.

She said that prior to the Dec. 14 opening of traffic on the South Beltway (an opening accomplished months ahead of schedule) the NDOT reached out to Google Maps and other apps used by motorists so they knew that Highway 2 was now the South Beltway, and not the route through Lincoln, which has been renamed the “Lincoln Parkway.”

She said that a check of those apps on Thursday indicated that it was leading traffic onto the new beltway.

Casady, who also served as Lincoln police chief for several years, said he’s driven the new South Beltway and while it’s four miles longer than driving the old route through Lincoln, it’s considerably faster due to the lack of stoplights.

The main purpose of the Lincoln South Beltway was to direct semi-truck traffic and other travelers around Lincoln, to reduce traffic congestion through the Capital City.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.