Great Platte River Road Archway...
Oct 8, 2011
|Today we visited the Great Platte River Road Archway, a bridge that pays tribute to the perseverance and ingenuity that developed our wonderfully diverse culture and dynamic American heritage and future. The Archway is an interactive adventure that pays tribute to the pioneers who passed through Nebraska on their way West.
From 1843 to 1869, nearly half a million men, women and children rode and walked the trails to the West Coast. The distance was vast, the prairie endless, the sky overwhelming and the mountains and wildlife were unlike anything they had ever seen. These pioneers persevered through a strong will and determination, carrying their cherished belongings in wagons or strapped to burros. They pushed or floated handcarts over mountains, rivers and valleys. Nobody who took the trip and lived to tell about it failed to be changed by it. During their trek across America, they encountered Native American tribes; trappers and traders making their way to annual rendezvous; stagecoach drivers and their passengers; pony express riders; and the telegraph. As the early settlers established their homesteads, they witnessed the birth of the railroads, the Lincoln Highway, (America’s first transcontinental road), I-80, the nation’s first Interstate and America’s Information Highway, the fiber optic cable that today links a nation. Amazing!
The longest Nebraska elevator started our tour today as it lead up into the Archway's multi-media experience. Statues of Lewis and Clark era guides stand along both sides, pointing the way up. The impressive entrance leads through a moving video display of the prairie. Once up, in a big, cavernous space, we were transported back to the first white man exploration of Nebraska, as they traveled west out of Nebraska. A periodic thunderstorm added to the realism. Off to one side, a large video of a field suddenly erupted with a buffalo stampede. The next large diorama told the story of the doomed Mormon Handcart Expedition. Next, a more settled time, as the white man subdues the Indian. The overland stage coach as a way across Nebraska was chronicled. A train clanked overhead along a trestle bridge -- it's the coming of the transcontinental railroad, transporting people through Nebraska all the faster.
At this point we reached the other side of the archway, and climbed a flight of stairs to head back over the highway. The era of the highway and car travel are highlighted next. An early Auto Camp is depicted with muddy ruts, as the "Lincoln Highway" becomes a conduit for families and traveling salesmen. A wing-finned 1961 Cadillac convertible is parked, the driver a blissful male mannequin, a copy of Jack Kerouac’s 'On the Road' on the passenger seat. A drive-in movie theater screen shows a concocted '50s educational short (familiar scenes from Rick Prelinger's Futurama and Autorama archives) explaining how Nazi Germany's autobahn impressed General Eisenhower. As President, he proposed 41,000 miles of our own interstate system.
The Lincoln Highway exhibit gives way to today's I-80. A Roadside Café featured more retro touches. A small display shows a manhole cordoned off for maintenance. A film of a worker inside it is shown, laying optical fiber. It's the information superhighway! At this point, we are directly over the highway, facing east. There are some windows, with radar guns. We clocked a procession of trucks, SUVs and cars and can see that thanks to the interstate, folks are traversing Nebraska faster than ever -- at 78, 77, 75, & even 82 mph! That was pretty cool...
We learned that the design and engineering challenge of the archway determined how to erect the 1,500 ton structure that would cross 308 feet of a heavily traveled interstate without impeding traffic flow. It was concluded that the structure had to be built beside the highway and lifted into position. Since the Archway emulates a covered bridge, two towers were erected, one on each side of the road, that serve as anchors for the archway bridge to rest. The concrete abutment walls are 60 feet long, 25 feet tall, and 2 feet thick.
The Archway’s exterior is designed to resemble a Nebraska sunset. The stainless steel exterior was specifically treated using electricity charged acid to create the yellow, oranges and reds to tie the exterior color to the region. A total of 10 exterior materials were used: Cor-Ten structural steel, stainless steel, aluminum, log siding, faux stone, Exterior Insulated Finish System, metal roofing, Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer roofing, glass and copper.
The most complex segment of the project was the Archway rollout. The final plan required a 10 hour transport of the Archway using rubber tired, self propelled modular transporters. The roll-out began by vertically jacking the Archway 22.5 feet with hydraulic jacks and resting the structure on temporary cribbing and a horizontal jacking beam. Once on the beam, the Archway was jacked horizontally, 42 inches at a time, onto the SPMTs. This jacking process took a total of eight days.
On August 16, 1999, in an evening full of fanfare and fireworks the rollout began. Starting at 10pm and culminating at 6am, weeks of planning and preparation reached a crescendo as the Archway was moved across the interstate on the SPMTs. The Archway was driven to the abutment walls and welded into place. The Arch is probably the most amazing attraction you'll find as you travel across central Nebraska on Interstate 80. But, it is a challenge to get there. As you are traveling west, just before you get to the Kearney, NE exit, you'll see it,but it's almost 5-miles before you can exit. So, when you take the Kearney exit, you then need to back-track on Talmadge Road (a frontage road going east) to get to the parking area for the arch.
Parking is free, and we called ahead of time & received permission to dry camp there last night. It opened at 9am and the entrance fee was $10.00/$8.50 for Seniors. We were greeted by a neat 'character', purchased our tickets and then received our state-of-the-art headphone systems for a self-guided tour. We took our time and listened to the very informative talks given in each of the exhibits. Thoroughly enjoyable, and we were glad we decided to stop as we make our way toward Arkansas. But first we'll be stopping in Salina, Kansas for 2 nights as we want to take in the Eisenhower Library & Museum in nearby Abilene. So, we'll see you on down the road in Kansas!
P.S. Posted 50+ pics today...sorry, but I couldn't decide what to skip, so I didn't!