August 27, 2020
In the summer of 1970 people and businesses served by U. S. Highway 136 and Nebraska 14 were upset by a highway improvement plan being promoted by state roads department which they thought was shortchanging their highways and the southernmost Nebraska counties.
A headline in an August issue of The Express proclaimed “Will U.S. Highway 136 Be Ignored?”
At that time, Kansas and Nebraska were still working to complete Interstates 70 and 80 across their respective states but planners were looking ahead and identifying future projects.
On Oct. 14, 1974, Nebraska became the first state to complete its mainline interstate system when a Golden Link ceremony was held near Sidney. But Nebraska was not the first state to complete an interstate highway
This month Kansas has celebrated completion of I-70 which happened in June of 1970. Kansas claims to hold the record for the longest continuous segment of interstate highway completed by any state. Kansas also claims to have the first segment of the interstate highway system completed in the United States. That eight-mile segment was opened west of Topeka on Nov. 14, 1956. In Kansas the highway covers 424 miles. The Nebraska road 455.27 miles.
Are you confused yet? I certainly am with what appear to be conflicting claims to first rights by the two states.
What is clear is that U.S. 136 has been left out of major upgrade planning for more than 50 years.
Fifty years ago the Aurora Chamber of Commerce was organizing a Highway 14 association. That community wasn’t content to be located close to Interstate 80. It also wanted Highway 14 improved. Superior willingly joined the effort. I remember attending one of those organizational meetings held in Aurora and later stopping at an Aurora restaurant for one of the best pieces of blueberry pie I’ve ever eaten. I was told by the driver of the car I was riding in that regardless of the time of day whenever he was in the Aurora area, he stopped at that cafe for a piece of blueberry pie.
In 1970 there was also an effort underway to organize a U.S. Highway 136 Association with the stated goal of getting the highway upgraded to a four-lane.
The Highway 136 folks were particularly upset by the state plan presented in 1969 that called for development of a four-lane road that partially followed U.S. 136 before bending north to within 15 miles of the yet to be opened I-80. The state plan started at Oxford, bent north to Holdrege, east to Minden, on over to Hastings, south to Chester and northeast to Beatrice. The proposed road would have crossed Nuckolls County between Ruskin and Nora.
The 136 folks preferred a route that more closely followed the existing highway. They said the proposed road would retard the economic development of Nebraska’s southern tier of counties. In that regard I’m certain they were right.
Regretfully, it appears both highway groups have faded away without accomplishing their goals.
Had they realized the impact the interstate system would have, they may have worked harder.
When Aurora was trying to organize a Highway 14 system, that community was smaller than Superior. While Superior has declined from a population of 3,000, Aurora has boomed until the 2018 population was estimated to be more than 4,533. Much of that growth can be attributed to its location near I-80.
Prior to the completion of I-70, U.S. 36, was a heavily travelled cross-country highway linking Chicago and Denver. Today much of the traffic is taking the less direct interstate routes.
Which leaves me to speculate on what might have been had highways 136 and 36 been developed to a standard similar to the current Highway 81.
Highways aren’t the only government service that economically affect an area.
The current fiasco we call the post office is adversely affecting people throughout the United States.
Our government leaders have lost sight of why the post office was created and have encouraged the delay in the movement of the mail. It isn’t a new problem. The post office has been broke for a long time but with each passing year, the break grows worse.
Many have experienced delayed or missing deliveries of prescriptions, checks, legal documents and a wide variety of packages.
The slow down in mail movement is the biggest threat faced by this newspaper. We get several calls a week from subscribers complaining about late or missed papers.
It is time we reminded Congress how important the post office is.
In recent weeks this newspaper has been publishing a series of stories written by Kerma Crouse on the forgotten post offices of Jewell County.
In the early days of Jewell County, when roads were nothing more than trails, this country’s leaders realized the importance of post offices. Offices were strategically located to insure the mail reached the new residents of a developing Jewell County. As roads were built and travel became easier, those offices were not needed and faded away.
Then and now Americans need a postal system they can count on. One that delivers the mail without delay and at an economical price.
I remember a comment made by my late uncle and directed toward the private company he once worked for. He said the then current owners had forgotten “service” was part of the company name. The same is true with the United States Postal Service. The leaders have forgotten the “service” is part of the name. I feel sorry for our local folks who tried hard to provide service only to have their efforts stomped into the mud by top management.