"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Local Input on How the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument Happened

Stephen R. England, SEC ALC AFM EMS, President, Investment Property Exchange Inc., 3811 Central Avenue, Suite G, Kearney, NE 68848, 308 236 8505 office, 308 234 6025 fax, 308 440 8190 cell, sent me the following contribution which is published with his permission:

"    At the time the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument was planned, officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Nebraska  Department of Roads told us that along I-80 separate exits and entrances for other than communities were prohibited. They also had a provision that said any food or commerce profits had to go to a special federal fund. This pretty much eliminated the Archway operating as a business with its own exit and entrance ramps.

    However also the Kearney Motel community assessed themselves a 2% tax on all motel room receipts for five years so that those funds could be given to the Great Platte River Archway Monument Foundation to plan the project. This amounted to approximately $1M. If the Archway had had its own "easy on" "easy off" exit there would have been less chance that those visitors would stay in Kearney and return to the motel owners their risked investment. As an example if you drive through Ohio, I-80 is a toll road and they have several very elaborate rest areas where some franchise restaurants and basic services are available. Most out of area travelers never get off the expressway to visit the Ohio communities. The city of Kearney did not want this to happen so it was decided not to fight the special exit issue which might have required an act of Congress to change.

    If you have traveled through other states along I-80 you might see some restaurants and rest areas that seem to violate this supposed law. However we were told that these were areas added to I-80 and were not part of the original I-80 Coast to Coast Highway project so they had different rules.

    Ultimately the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument was located along a frontage road two miles east of the Kearney I-80 exit. The absence of an exit on the east side of the property made it easy for travelers going east to decide to not stop since they had to backtrack about six miles.  I know all of these options were discussed thoroughly because I was retained to find a suitable location for the project and this land had one mile of frontage on both sides of the interstate and if not selected the site selection would have had to involve the voluntary purchase of lands from many different owners at a much higher price. Without some sort of condemnation authority it probably couldn't have happened. 

    Building an attraction of this type had never been done before. Several studies were done by national experts and they predicted that people would see this very interesting and attractive structure and decide to stop by. It is basically a $60M billboard  that can be seen for a couple miles in both directions. However no one realized with modern vehicles equipped with large gas tanks, video players, etc., the traveling public does not make very many impulse stops. Most have to be convinced prior to embarking that an Archway stop will be scheduled.

    The other problem is that this is really an historical museum which once visited many don't feel the desire to return to even though it is quite spectacular and has received many national accolades. It needs to be more interactive and fun where visitors would want to come back again very soon.  There needs to be more fun family stuff to do except look and learn.

    The interesting thing for Kearney is that the bankruptcy court just sold this monster facility to a group of us community business folks for $120,000 and dismissed all other obligations. Either the Foundation or the Community is going to own it soon. This bankruptcy should have been filed years ago because the Archway was saddled with impossible indebtedness with no hope of repaying. So any new idea or program that would have allowed the Archway to earn a little profit had to go directly to bondholders which solved no problems for anyone and certainly did not provide a path to financial viability.

    Unbelieveably most observers don't realize that there is no local money invested here at all. It was funded entirely by big Wall Street mutual funds.  Some brokerage firms with local offices tried to invest for local people but were thankfully shut out. This entire offering went to Wall Street just before the peak of the Dot Com bubble and Smith Barney and others could sell anything. This offering was sold out in four hours. The Foundation went from wondering where to come up with $3,000 to exercise the land option to having $57M in the bank a week later.

    I think now with some cost cutting, new leadership, and vision that there can be numerous ways to make the Archway financially sound. It has been a huge asset to Kearney and it is an icon. Everyone who travels by car through central Nebraska now knows about our community. I have escorted many people through the Archway when they come here to do some business. Their comment is generally "this is spectacular and I am bringing my family back to see it soon!" not to mention the educational resource it is for buses and buses of school children that visit every year.

    It is hard to quantify what the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument has done for Kearney and Nebraska. However it is an illustration that makes people take notice and fulfills a tremendous historical education function for those taking its tour."

Please Note:  Steve wrote the above material in response to our posting: Free the Archway! The Outdated US Code 23 §111 (Highways) and the Great Platte River Road Archway, Kearney, Nebraska, USA

Friday, October 25, 2013

Free the Archway! The Outdated US Code 23 §111 (Highways) and the Great Platte River Road Archway, Kearney, Nebraska, USA

[Update: see also Stephen R. England on this topic here]

Here is an interesting legal and tourist item for road travelers across the entire United States, for it impacts the problems of all U.S. Interstate Highways.

We refer here to the Great Platte River Road Archway on Interstate 80 near Kearney, Nebraska, a bridge over the I-80 that came into being to pay tribute:

"to the perseverance and ingenuity that developed our wonderfully diverse culture and dynamic American heritage and future".

The archway ran into (now legally settled) bankruptcy problems earlier in the year, in part because of no direct access to the Archway from the interstate, an impossible situation perhaps -- we do not know for sure -- caused by a stupid federal US law provision, 23 USC § 111, which has all kinds of nonsensical limitations on interstate highways.

Things have been looking up for the future of the archway
ever since a new exit for the archway
was opened on August 28, 2013,
as part of the "East Kearney Bypass Interchange"
which is scheduled to be finished in 2016.

The archway can also be accessed -- distantly -- via Exit 272,
see VisitNebraska.com.

See Google map.

See also RoadsideAmerica.com.

Why was there no original direct exit to the Archway?

We are not sure this is the reason, but in an astounding factoid, we learned that although the first bridge restaurant was in fact built in the United States, in Oklahoma, yet, one of the great limitations on sensible interstate facility development in the United States is pointed out in the Wikipedia article on Bridge Restaurant, as US Code 23 §111 idiotically prohibits commercial activities at rest areas along interstate highways.[emphasis added]

"United States

The first bridge restaurant was built in 1957, over I-44 (Will Rogers Turnpike) [1] at the Vinita, Oklahoma, rest area. It is the world's largest McDonald's fast food restaurant. With the construction of the North Illinois Tollway in 1958, five more bridge restaurants were built as Illinois Tollway oases, opening in 1959. Further implementation of the concept in the United States has been hampered by US Code 23 clause 111, which prohibits commercial activities at the rest areas along the Interstate Highways. Although commercial activities existing before 1960 could continue, and the unaffected turnpikes already had commercialized rest areas, no new restaurants were added. Despite this legislation the Lincoln Oasis bridge restaurant has been opened in 1967. [emphasis added]


The concept was introduced to Europe in 1959 by the Italian architect Angelo Bianchetti,[2] who built the first European bridge restaurant in slightly more than six months. In 1962, Pavesi replaced its existing roadside restaurants at Novara and Bergamo along the Autostrada Serenissima by bridge restaurants at Novara and Osio. This was done in conjunction with the upgrade of the three lane highway to motorway standards. Bianchetti built nine bridge restaurants for his principal, the Italian food chain Pavesi. Three Pavesi bridges, Chianti, Dorno and Serrevalle-Pistoiese, were built by other architects. The concept was replicated by Pavesi's competitor Motta, who built two bridges at the Cantagallo[3] and Limena[4] rest areas, and later on spread over Europe. In 1974 the Italian chains were heavily effected by the oil crisis and as a result no more bridge restaurants were built in Italy. In 2012 there are 13 bridge restaurants left in Italy.

Other Europe

Inspired by the Italian example, the concept spread over Europe along with the expansion of motorway networks. Britain's first motorway, the M6 was equipped with motorway service areas (MSA). In contrast to the United States, commercialized rest areas along state owned motorways are common in Europe. Many of the British MSAs have footbridges for crossing the motorway but only five MSAs were built as bridge restaurants, all in the early sixties. The M6 got three of them: one was built at Farthing Corner (today Medway) over the M2 and the last at Leicester Forest East over the M1 which opened in 1966. The building of bridge restaurants in Britain stopped because of the fire risks, because they were regarded as an obstacle for road widening in the future, and because of the finding that drivers do not find any rest when they are still watching the traffic. [emphasis added]

In Germany, there are two MSAs built as bridge restaurants. The first opened in 1967 at the Rudolphstein/Hirschberg crossing of the inner German border along the Berlin Munich transit route. Visitors had a view of the iron curtain from the restaurant. The second was built at the Dammer Berge MSA over the A 1 at Holdorf in 1969. Building bridge restaurants in Germany was more expensive then two restaurants at both roadsides. Because of the length of the bridges many facilities, such as toilets, kitchens and storage rooms had to be built twice on a bridge, so it turned out that it was too expensive to build further bridge restaurants over the Autobahn.[5] 

In Belgium the concept is widespread and still applied for new MSAs. At the beginning of the 1970s Jacques Borel introduced the bridge restaurant to France, and Mövenpick followed soon in Switzerland. The Netherlands followed in 1980 with Rick's, today Ruygen Hoek, MSA near Schiphol.

Scandinavia got its first bridge restaurant in the mid-1980s."
Hence, in Europe, (see AutoGrill, Italy, AC Restaurants (Arlon)) such archways are planned with easy access exits on both sides of the highway and offer full services such as gasoline, excellent food and accommodations for travelers, which might include a hotel and even a religious chapel. For example, accommodations might also serve groups in tour busses, etc.

Note that

the Dammer Berge (run by Tank & Rast) in Germany hosts over 1 million visitors a year!

You can not put all of your eggs in one basket, but must let the Kearney Archway serve as the landmark for a host of activities.

Free the Archway!
Obviously 23 USC § 111 should be repealed.

As for the text of that law, see
23 USC § 111 - Agreements relating to use of and access to rights-of-way—Interstate System.
23 U.S.C.
United States Code, 2011 Edition
Title 23 - HIGHWAYS
Sec. 111 - Agreements relating to use of and access to rights-of-way-Interstate System
From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov
There is no sane federal excuse for these kinds of limiting provisions on interstate commerce. It is idiotic. Interstate highways are there for transportation and should make any and all facilities available that travelers need and want.

What were they thinking in Washington D.C. when the excessively limiting provisions of this statute were drawn up? OPEN roads made America in its founding days. The Archway was erected to celebrate:
"an era when covered wagons, buffalo, hand-pulled carts, and trains first criss-crossed the prairie!"
There were no stupid federal limitations on road commerce in those days.

People in America must become alerted to the fact that they are NOT as free as they think. Quite the contrary, you are enslaved in a legal structure that has many completely outdated, impractical and capitalist-contrary elements.

While problems like this could easily be solved by legislation and the nation's economy boosted in the blink of an eye -- just think of the number of jobs created around the country by repealing 23 USC § 111, your Congressional representatives in Washington D.C. are busy in circus-like activities to shut down government, which helps no one, indeed, creates even more problems.

Free the Archway!
on the way to a NEW, BETTER America!

Hat tip to my old friend S.E. in Kearney for alerting me to the Great Platte River Road Archway, although the story that developed out of my research was not his intention. This is my opinion alone. He may not share it at all.

[Update: see also Stephen R. England on this topic here]


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