You don't hear this everyday, a Siouxland toll bridge may soon be free.
Since the 50's, countless people have crossed the Missouri River by way of the Decatur, Nebraska bridge. Every one of them has paid a toll to booth operators like Jim Maryott.
"It really isn't much of a toll. It's a dollar for cars, three dollars for semis," said Maryott.
Maryott says there are about 15 operators in all. He calls the group a bunch of retirees, trying to make some extra cash. It's a job Maryott loves.
"It's a wonderful job. You get to meet everybody for about five seconds, find out a little about how they are doing," said Maryott.
But his booth, and his job, could be gone before the end of the year. Nebraska and Iowa look to join forces and take ownership of the bridge, eliminating the toll for travelers.
Officials with the Burt County Bridge Commission say the structure sees a lot of cars...
"It'll run anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 vehicles a day," said Clark Beck, bridge manager.
It's just not enough to generate the toll dollars needed for rising maintenance and repair costs. In fact, just repainting the bridge would be in the millions.
"We're talking four to five million just to repaint it. We can't handle that much, no," said Beck.
State officials say they're still working on the agreement. No date has been set for the ownership transfer. But when it happens, Maryott knows he'll go with the tolls. At least he's got a good attitude.
"We're only 15 people, out of many, many hundreds of thousands of people that are going to benefit by it," he said.
Officials with the bridge commission say once the states have control, they could replace the Decatur bridge in 15 to 20 years.
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