BENNETT – Midwest Walls and Landscape is conveniently located off Highway 2 in Bennett. Between February and March, the traffic along Highway 2 dropped by more than 1,000 cars.
Allison Werger of Midwest Walls and Landscape has noticed the difference.
“I’d say there’s been a lot less traffic,” Werger said.
Across Nebraska, the state Department of Transportation has more than 60 automated traffic counting stations on county roads, highways and interstates, counting each car that goes by, every hour, every day, all year long. The stations stretch from the state line on I-680 at the Mormon Bridge in Omaha (down 13 percent in March) to the state line on I-80 at the Pine Bluffs interchange in Kimball County (up 3.5 percent).
A Nebraska News Service analysis of individual traffic station data gives the first local view of what impact the coronavirus is having on the state’s roadways. The state takes the daily count of cars, then averages them together to create a monthly count. Of the 62 counting stations statewide, 51 of them reported lower traffic volumes in March versus February.
That ranges from the 33,000 cars per day drop in March at 42nd Street on I-80 in Omaha, where 143,000 cars a day passed by last month to the 5 car daily average drop on a county road north of Chappell in Deuel County, where 64 cars a day on average drove by.
So while March gives the first look at local traffic, it’s a partial look. State and local authorities started ordering shutdowns mid-month in some places, later in others. Normal traffic levels were averaged in with below normal levels to get the monthly amount.
The state has more recent traffic summaries that hint that traffic is down even more in April. Last week, In-
terstate 80 west of Lincoln to the Wyoming state line was down 26 percent from previous years. Rural highways in the state are down 14 percent. Streets in Lincoln and Omaha are down 27 percent from the past. But those are wide summaries covering hundreds of miles of roadways.
Closer to the spot, the trends become more personal.
South of Bennett, traffic is down on Pickrell Road as well.
“I think Pickrell is doing very well as far as staying with a wonderful attitude and being very understanding that it could be a serious situation,” said Kelly Lenners, branch manager and loan officer at the First State Bank Nebraska in Pickrell. “So I think everybody is taking the social distancing very literally, but it hasn’t necessarily allowed them to change their attitude and outlook about the future and what’s gonna go on after.”
The bank looks out onto Pickrell Road. East of Pickrell, an average of 360 cars drove by each day on that road in February, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation. Once coronavirus shutdowns began happening in March, that same road averaged 354 cars per day for a 1.7 percent decrease.
Along Highway 2, many businesses are feeling the impacts of Coronavirus left and right. According to Werger, the same holds true for Midwest Walls and Landscape.
“At the beginning of it all, our phone calls and orders went down,” Werger said.
With Gov. Pete Ricketts lifting restrictions put in place to battle COVID-19, Midwest Walls and Landscape is starting to see an uptick in business once again.
“Within the last couple weeks the number of calls have gone up, along with our retail sales numbers,” Werger said.
(With additional reporting from David Berman)