Straying semis leave deep divots, sore feelings just outside Lincoln

‘Only so much we can do’ says state official after new message boards go up

By: - September 5, 2023 4:30 am
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Last winter, a semi that missed the turn to get onto the recently improved Nebraska Highway 2 bypass got stuck in the ditch in front of Becky Stewart’s rural home outside of Lincoln. (Courtesy of Becky Stewart)

LINCOLN — Becky Stewart doesn’t have anything personal against truck drivers, she just wishes they’d quit turning around in her front yard.

Stewart, who lives near the recently opened Lincoln South Beltway south of the Capital City, said she’s losing patience with semi truck drivers who miss the turn onto the four-lane freeway, and end up on Saltillo Road where she lives.

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Three message boards alert motorists that they must turn left to get back onto Nebraska Highway 2, but truckers still miss the turn. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Drivers have to blow past three message boards to miss the turn, then are re-routed down the rural blacktop of Saltillo Road, apparently, by their global positioning system.

That’s when Stewart’s blood begins to boil.

It takes some extra effort to get to her home near 86th and Saltillo, which is about three miles from the missed turn.

A driver has to drive around three “Road Closed to Thru Traffic” signs to get to her place. The rural road is blocked off where Stewart and her brother have homes. That’s because just down the road at 84th Street, there’s a new roundabout and interchange under construction for the South Beltway.

So when truckers encounter the blocked road, they attempt to turn around in Stewart’s rural driveway, as well as at her brother’s place. But the hulking trucks have a hard time navigating the narrow driveways, resulting in semis crossing Stewart’s front lawn, and, when it’s muddy, leaving deep ruts in the turf.

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Truckers have to drive around a trio of “Road Closed” signs to get to Becky Stewart’s rural home, but apparently they are being guided by GPS systems that haven’t been updated. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

At least a couple of times, semis have gotten stuck in the ditches in front of the Stewarts’ homes. The most recent incident was around July 4 at 3 a.m., which required a visit from a tow truck.

“No one has ever told them that dirt and water makes mud, I guess,” she said.

‘Beyond frustrated’

Stewart, whose family has lived along Saltillo Road for decades, said that four semis in a recent three-day period got lost in her front yard. She signed a recent email to the Examiner: “Beyond frustrated and gonna need yard work done.”

The opening of the $352-million freeway around south Lincoln — the Lincoln South Beltway — befuddled some truck drivers just after it opened, but the problem appears to be persisting, to the frustration of some residents like Stewart.

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Deep ruts in the front yard left by semi trailer trucks that miss a turn onto the Highway 2 freeway and then try to turn around after detouring on a closed road. (Courtesy of Becky Stewart)

Nebraska Highway 2 used to extend through fast-growing south Lincoln, creating congestion on the four-lane street. When the South Beltway was opened, the old highway became “Nebraska Parkway,” and there was a marked decrease in the number of semis driving down the old route.

But some truckers — reportedly because they haven’t updated their GPS navigation systems — still drive through Lincoln on the former highway. If they miss the turn to get back onto the new Highway 2 in southeast Lincoln, they end up driving down Saltillo Road and past the “Road Closed” signs in search of another way to get onto the highway.

“They apparently don’t understand what ‘Road Closed’ means,” Stewart said.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation recently installed some new message boards in hopes of preventing truckers from missing the turn.

But the problem, according to a DOT spokeswoman boils down to the GPS systems in some trucks not being updated to include the new route around Lincoln.

Lincoln South Beltway
The Lincoln South Beltway, which opened in December, created a new route around south Lincoln and rerouted Nebraska Highway 2, which used to run through the city.
(Courtesy of Nebraska Department of Transportation)

Jeni Campana of the NDOT said the agency has reached out to several trucking companies to make sure they are aware of the new bypass, but some still haven’t updated their GPS systems — and some companies penalize drivers if they stray from the GPS-indicated directions.

“We’ve tried everything. But there’s only so much we can do,” she said.

Some additional help may be coming soon.

Joe Kuehn, a project manager with the Nebraska Department of Transportation, said Saltillo Road should be reopened by late this month, so truckers who mistakenly get guided down the road will have an open path to get back onto Highway 2.

Stewart hopes so, too.

Meanwhile, she’s trying to track down the trucking companies whose rigs tore up her front yard to see if they will repair it.


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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.