STANTON — “Honk if you’re over it.”
That’s the sign placed just north of the Highway 57 bridge south of Stanton that southbound drivers can see when crossing the newly reopened bridge.
Stanton residents are certainly “over it” and thrilled about the opportunities the new bridge brings.
The bridge was originally scheduled to be completed Nov. 1, but because of a push by local leaders and government entities, the bridge became accessible to commuters last Friday for the first time since the March flooding.
For Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger, the new bridge provides law enforcement better access to the southern part of Stanton County, ensuring increased safety for many of the county’s residents.
“Emergency response was definitely hampered and increased from just a few minutes south of town to upwards of 30 minutes with the paths we had to take with three of the four bridges in our county down at one time,” Unger said.
Initially, Unger said the Stanton County Sheriff’s Office relied on overtime for adequate patrolling to counter the bridge outings, designating a deputy to patrol areas south of the Elkhorn River.
Both Clarkson Fire and Rescue and Madison Fire and Rescue assisted in fire and rescue calls south of Stanton.
“Luckily, we didn’t have a lot of calls and we were very fortunate there were no real serious incidents that took place in that seven-month period,” Unger said.
Business owners and managers in Stanton saw a drastic decrease in sales since the bridge went out.
Jill Nelson, the general manager of the Casey’s in town, noted that the general store lost 250 customers per day on average.
Nelson already noticed an uptick in customer traffic since last Saturday and said the numbers at Casey’s had risen by a significant amount.
Emmett’s Foodtown, owned by Emmett and Alice Prewitt, saw a 10% decrease in sales since March.
“Saturday morning, the first day it was open, there were four or five people from the other side of the bridge all standing around and looking at each other with big smiles on their faces,” Emmett Prewitt said. “It’s nice for people to be able to get into town and see each other again.”
The Prewitts are both thrilled about the anticipated traffic increase through their store.
Don Eberly, owner of Stanton State Bank, sympathized with residents in towns south of the bridge because they had limited access to multiple highways (24, 275) north of Stanton for easy access to Norfolk, where many people work.
Business at Stanton State Bank did not change as dramatically as other businesses in town.
“On the banking end, a lot of the things are done online, and one thing banks can provide and can’t compare with other businesses in is personal service,” Eberly said.
Increased safety throughout the county, sales increases at local businesses and decreased commuting are all effects of the Highway 57 bridge repair that Stantonites are already enjoying.
“To get to the golf course (Elkhorn Acres), it used to be about a mile-and-a-half round trip (for residents north of the bridge), but then it turned in to about 60 miles,” Eberly said.
M.E. Collins Contracting of Wahoo began work on the bridge and riverbank repairs in mid-June, with the project totaling $2.9 million.