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The trees hit the Lied Platte River Bridge like battering rams during the flood, flattening a few hundred feet of railing and damaging some of the concrete ice-breakers on its upstream side.

The hiker-biker bridge near South Bend -- owned by a pair of natural resources districts and maintained by the state -- has been closed since March. But its caretakers are now moving forward with a plan to get it repaired and reopened.

The Papio and Lower Platte South districts have both approved a plan to take the first step -- hiring a contractor to clear the bridge of debris, most of it uprooted trees and limbs carried downstream by the flooding.

That work is set to start this winter and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of which should be covered by federal flood repair funds, said Eric Williams, Papio’s natural resources planner.

And it must be done before engineers can determine whether the structure itself was damaged, he said.

“We need to remove the debris in order for a more complete structural inspection of the girders that span the piers and the piers themselves,” Williams said.

The districts will be responsible for any inspection and repair costs not covered by federal funds, and the Game and Parks Commission will pay any local share of the cleanup costs, he said.

The districts hope to have the bridge itself repaired next year, but it won’t lead anywhere: The flooding also dumped sand on the Sarpy County side, burying the entire half-mile of trail from the bridge to the trailhead parking lot on Nebraska 31.

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The closures created a disconnect in this month's Market to Market Relay, an annual race from Omaha to Lincoln each fall. This year, officials put in what they called a halftime, where all runners loaded into the team van and rode across the Platte River before resuming the race.

They hope repairs are complete by 2020.

“The trail needs to be repaired and reconstructed, and we don’t have a clear understanding of how that’s going to happen or a timeline,” Williams said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.

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