Info and History
First designated in 1925, this route remains mostly intact from its early days, save for a missing segment between Grand Island and Lincoln. It crosses the state almost completely from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. Its original 1925 designation had it heading south from Grand Island to Red Cloud; this segment is now part of U.S. 281. It is a four-lane expressway extending from I-29 near Percival, IA to U.S. 77 in Lincoln, serving as a shortcut between Lincoln and Kansas City, and this is part of the National Highway System. Another segment, from Alliance to Grand Island, is also part of the National Highway System, particularly as N-2 is the most convenient way for much of the Sandhills-bound traffic from the east to reach it. It is 65 mph for almost all of its rural route.
Changes Around Lincoln
Between 1925 and 1930, N-2 traveled into Lincoln by what appears to be Old Cheney Road after curving up from Cheney (it is difficult to tell on maps precisely what east-west road this occurs on, but the naming makes sense) and turns north at South 48th Street to meet up with U.S. 34 (until recently, signage with the old U.S. highway shields still remained at the intersection of 48th and O Streets). It then traveled north up 10th Street before turning west on what appears to be Cornhusker Highway, which curved father north before heading west along present-day U.S. 34.
Between 1938 and 1948, U.S. 34 was shifted from its alignment along U.S. 6 (it would join N-2 traveling north along the Matzke Highway) and ran concurrent with N-2 out of Lincoln. Sometime around 1955, N-2 was routed from its previous path along South 48th Street to dual one-ways along South 9th and 10th Streets as a southern bypass was constructed. After 1960, N-2 was then routed along the old U.S. 34 route, displacing N-15 along the Matzke Highway.
Around 1970, as Interstate 80 was nearing completion, N-2 was rerouted from its concurrency with U.S. 6 heading west out of Lincoln to an interchange within Lincoln that would eventually become the northern edge of the U.S. 77 West Bypass. Because of this re-routing, N-2 no longer connected with U.S. 34, and this concurrency was removed, segmenting the longest highway in Nebraska. The Matzke Highway segment that originally connected U.S. 6 to U.S. 34 north of Milford became L-80H between U.S. 6 and I-80, but was completely decommissioned and handed over to the county north of I-80. Once the West Bypass was completed, the eastern segment of N-2 was shortened even further, rerouting west along the Van Dorn Bypass where it terminated at U.S. 77.
The process has begun to reroute N-2 south of Lincoln as the South Beltway. This segment will be freeway between U.S. 77 and 176th Street, and will separate from the current highway at 120th Street and curve just south of Saltillo Road. The current N-2 alignment will become Business N-2.
Changes Around Grand Island
Originally, N-2 deviated from U.S. 34 at Locust Street, running along U.S. 30 briefly along 1st and 2nd Streets before turning north again alongside U.S. 281 on Broadwell Avenue. However, once the western four-lane bypass was constructed for U-S. 281, N-2 was rerouted along it.
With the N-2 segmentation in 1970, in order to reconnect N-2 to the new interstate the southern portion of N-402 became N-2 (the north portion then became S-41A).
Changes Along the Eastern Segment: Lincoln to Nebraska City
A four-lane beltway was constructed around the south and west sides of Nebraska City around 1986 to re-route U.S. 75 and N-2 traffic around the city. The previous alignment is now designated as Business N-2.
There were several changes to routing around Cheney, Unadilla, Syracuse, and Dunbar, especially once the four-lane expressway was completed.
The first thing to do would be to reconnect the two segments of N-2. There are a few options available for this. The first is to route N-2 along U.S. 77 and have it join I-80 and head west until it deviates at Grand Island. This would easily be the simplest solution. The next option would be to route along U.S. 77 once again, but then follow U.S. 6 west until reaching the Matzke Highway, reclaiming its old route along U.S. 34. This would also eliminate L-80H. A third option would be to connect from U.S. 6 to U.S. 34 along NW 48th Street. This would also eliminate L-55K. I prefer the Matzke Highway option for historical sake; it seems a shame that a road that has hosted so many different highways (U.S. 34, N-2, N-15, L-80H) is no longer a state highway for most of its length.
The other change that I propose is likely to be an unpopular one. I propose that N-2 ends at its intersection with N-71 in western Nebraska. Currently the two routes run concurrently to the South Dakota border, but only N-71 continues as SD-71; the Highway 2 designation ends at the border. Ordinarily, as N-2 was in place before N-71, I would recommend that N-71 be dropped, but because SD-71 continues the numbering I recommend the termination of N-2 west of Hemingford. This allows the rule of state highways only ending at other state highways to remain.
If I had unlimited resources, I would also recommend increasing N-2 to four lanes throughout to increase transportation opportunities to Yellowstone, the Black Hills (including Rapid City), the Sandhills and Pine Ridge, and more. I would particularly recommend this between Grand Island and U.S. 385, which is slated to become part of the Heartland Expressway. I would also recommend upgrading N-2 and I-2 to freeway as I-329 at least from I-29 to Nebraska City, or as I-380 from Lincoln to I-29.
Bucket List Status
I have traveled the entire length of this highway save the little spur from I-80 to U.S. 34 (I keep forgetting to take it when I’m out there).