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Heartland Expressway (Corridor 14)


Corridor 14 is the Heartland Expressway. The corridor starts in two locations: in Denver, Colorado and in Limon, Colorado. The Denver branch travels northeast via Interstate 76 to Brush, where it meets the Limon Branch. The Limon Branch begins at Interstate 70, connecting to the north end of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor 38 and traveling north via Colorado 71 to Brush, Colorado; Kimball, Nebraska; and Scottsbluff, Nebraska. From Scottsbluff, the route will then turn east on Nebraska L62A, then U.S. 26 east to the intersection with U.S. 385 near Bridgeport.

The expressway will turn north again on U.S. 385, passing through Alliance before entering South Dakota. In South Dakota, the expressway continues north via U.S. 385, then follows South Dakota 79 around the Black Hills and north into Rapid City. A spur to the corridor extends from Nebraska 71 near Scottsbluff northwest via U.S. 26 to Interstate 25 via Torrington, Wyoming. Combined with Ports to Plains Corridor 38, this provides for a continuous, four-lane corridor from Laredo, Texas, north to Rapid City, South Dakota.

For more information on routing changes, construction progress, and related items, visit the official Heartland Expressway site and Twin Cities Transportation.

Progress on the campaign to upgrade the corridor to four-lane expressway standards continues. A large section around Hot Springs, South Dakota has been upgraded, and work has continued through western Nebraska, including the area near Scottsbluff. For more detailed information on the Heartland Expressway project, visit the Heartland Expressway Home Page and the 1993 Heartland Expressway feasibility study on the web. Many thanks to Jerrod Haberman for information related to Corridor 14 routing and construction status in Nebraska and South Dakota.

The Heartland Expressway is one of several companion High Priority Corridors that form the Great Plains International Trade Corridor. Other corridors that are either part of the HPCs or are being included in future legislative actions include:

Heartland Expressway in Nebraska

As of December 11, 2000, Jonathan Winkler reports that Nebraska 71 is four-lane all the way from Kimball to Scottsbluff. Nebraska 71 between Scottsbluff-Gering and Kimball was built as part of the state's initiative to connect cities of 15,000 or more to the Interstate highway system, not because it was part of the Heartland Expressway corridor. It was a state-funded project.

I have a 1996 Nebraska map which shows a four-lane segment only about ten miles long around the junction with Neb. Spur 4A (which leads to Harrisburg), so those four lanes all the way between I-80 and U.S. 26 is new construction. (Asphaltic concrete has been used, exclusively, for this four-lane stretch, which is not surprising as the amount of traffic is very, very low--I went for mile after mile without seeing any other vehicle except an old blue pickup truck which was traveling in the same direction I was. It is mostly flat terrain also, except for a short stretch just south of Scottsbluff where it cuts through the Wildcat Hills, but even there it is still very easy driving. I don't remember a reduced speed limit or any curves with advisory speeds.)

In Scottsbluff itself, the approach into town via U.S. 26 has been made an expressway which goes to two lanes just east of town, at the turnoff for the [Scottsbluff] National Monument. The N.D.O.R. has put up a sign near the taper (which I, shamefully, failed to photograph) indicating that road widening plans are being made and information can be obtained by calling a phone number given on the sign. The road is also concrete, presumably because it carries heavier traffic; indeed, I believe it is two-lane Portland cement all the way to U.S. 385 via U.S. 26 and Neb. Link 62A. I speculate that eventually the expressway will be extended to Alliance via the present U.S. 385/Neb. Link 62A junction as following the current U.S. 26 alignment through Bayard would introduce an unnecessary kink in the new road.

North of Scottsbluff, the expressway follows U.S. 26 to U.S. 385. A "kink" in the U.S. 385 alignment near Alliance was removed in 2000. The 2001 Rand McNally atlas shows this new alignment, with U.S. 385 going to Berea first before turning toward Alliance. The old Nebraska 87 east from Hemmingford is now Link Highway L7E. This adjustment is also part of the Heartland Expressway project.

The January 2, 2001 edition of the Omaha World-Herald featured an article about the Heartland Expressway: "Panhandle Expressway Lanes Pared in Places: Expressway Panhandle Route Falls Short Of Original Plan" by David Hendee. In that article, the Heartland Expressway is shown to be partially complete, primarily due to a lack of funds. In addition, preliminary studies indicated that the route does not carry enough traffic to warrant four lanes along the entire stretch. As such, as of 2001, the only new four-lane stretch of the expressway in Nebraska is Nebraska 71 between Kimball and Gering. The other segments - especially from Alliance north to Chadron and the South Dakota border - are Super Twos, with broad, paved shoulders and passing lanes.

According to that article, the average daily counts as of 1998 along the Heartland Expressway are fairly low:

  • Between Kimball and Gering: 2,000
  • East of Minatare: 3,850
  • South of Alliance: 2,615
  • South of Chadron: 1,500
  • North of Chadron: 1,810

Nebraska is presently constructing a four-lane divided highway between Scottsbluff and Minatare. This segment should be completed by the end of 2003. Another component of the expressway is the construction of a $34 million, 5.9-mile link from the northern end of the four-lane expressway around the south and east side of Gering to U.S. 26. The bypass south and east of Gering/Scottsbluff will begin in the fall of 2003 and will be developed in three stages. It may be 2005 before this segment is completed. A similar link around Kimball at the southern end probably will not occur until 2013 or later. South Dakota is hoping that Nebraska can accelerate funding of such a route because it would boost travel into the Black Hills, which is the primary tourist spot of that state.

Heartland Expressway in South Dakota

South Dakota has several projects along U.S. 385, South Dakota 79, and U.S. 18 to improve its section of this corridor to expressway (four-lane divided highway) standards. This is already evident with the U.S. 16 Truck Bypass around Rapid City and the new four-lane section of South Dakota 79 that was built in the 1990s. Plans call for this expansion to continue south to the Nebraska State Line. South Dakota is currently constructing the four-lane south of Hermosa toward Maverick Junction (east of Hot Springs). This segment will likely not completed until 2006.

The Heartland Expressway does not follow Nebraska 71 into South Dakota, as part of this road is gravel in South Dakota. Back in May 1999, Chris Geelhart reported, "I took a side trip down part of the Heartland Expressway. This route, which will link Denver and Rapid City, utilizes South Dakota 79, U.S. 18, and U.S. 385 in South Dakota. The segment from Rapid City to South Dakota 36 near Hermosa is now four lanes. When I drove it, all lanes were open, but I read in the paper that traffic would be redirected onto the new lanes to repave the old ones. I also drove the northern segment of multi-state Highway 71, from Hot Springs SD to U.S. 20 in northwest Nebraska. In South Dakota, there is ten miles of this road that is gravel. On the Nebraska segment, the road is marked as Nebraska 2/Nebraska 71.

Wyoming and the Heartland Expressway

When the ISTEA legislation was being debated on Capitol Hill, the representatives from Wyoming attempted to have the Heartland Expressway corridor moved west to U.S. 85 from Cheyenne to Rapid City. This effort failed; in fact, the expressway is now designed to bypass Wyoming entirely by connecting Denver and Rapid City via Scottsbluff. The legislation (as currently described, prior to the proposed Fall 2002 amendment) does not indicate a route for the expressway south of Kimball, but it seems likely that it would follow Colorado 71 south to Interstate 76, then Interstate 76 southwest to Denver.

Interstate Aspirations

Most of what I've read has referred to this corridor as being mostly a four-lane, expressway status upgrade between Interstate 80 and Interstate 90, but with a potential connection to the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, an upgrade may result in this becoming part of a future Interstate 27 ... but that would probably not occur for decades.

Page Updated July 31, 2005.