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July 9, 2018 11:45 AM, EDT
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts Announces $600 Million for Road Projects
US Highway 275, Interstate 80 Included in State's Plans
Nebraska Welcome Sign DVM/Flickr

Nebraska will invest $600 million in transportation-related projects, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced July 6.

The announcement coincides with the release of the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Program Book for fiscal years 2019-24, which outlines projects scheduled for funding in the coming years.

“My administration has been committed to making investments in projects all across the state to build the 21st-century transportation network that is helping connect our communities and grow our state,” Ricketts, a Republican, said during a press conference held outside NDOT’s headquarters in Lincoln. “This record investment of $600 million slated for 2019 builds on the great successes we have achieved over the last few years.”

One of the projects slated for the upcoming year involves doubling the capacity of an 18½-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 275, which runs through rural communities about 100 miles northwest of Omaha. Another substantial project is the reconstruction of an 18-mile portion of Interstate 80 that runs along the Colorado border.

Ricketts

Ricketts

NDOT also plans to conduct several smaller scale paving projects on various routes across the state, including portions of U.S. Route 77 outside Lincoln and state Route 64 in Omaha.

The agency maintains 10,000 miles of roads and 3,500 bridges. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, some 14.7% of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient.

“It’s an exciting time for Nebraska as we continue to make historic levels of investment in our roads and bridges,” NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said during the press conference.

Nebraska’s Surface Transportation Program is financed through state and federal funds. State funds consist of monies from the Highway Trust Fund, the Build Nebraska Act and the Transportation Innovation Act.

Sustaining the Highway Trust Fund, which assists states with maintenance and construction projects, remains a pressing concern for legislators and transportation officials. Improvements in fuel consumption and shifting driving habits contribute to the account’s steady decline, prompting several general fund transfers in recent years to maintain its solvency.

Nebraska also has been the recipient of two federal transportation grants. In March, the state received a $25 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to fund the construction of an expressway outside Lincoln. In June, Nebraska received an Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant for $18.3 million that will be used to expand a portion of the Heartland Expressway, a network of corridors that runs through Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming.

“Gov. Ricketts, along with state and local leaders, [has] made funding for infrastructure a priority, and we’re putting every dollar to work in the most efficient and effective way possible to build a safe and modern transportation system,” Schneweis said.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the goal is to protect prior investments that have been made to the state’s transportation network. The state Legislature and governing bodies’ other forays into areas of transportation include developing policy for autonomous vehicles, streamlining speed limits and merging the Department of Aeronautics and the Department of Roads to form NDOT.

“Whether it’s completing our expressway system or improving our county bridges, quality infrastructure assets are foundational to creating ‘The Good Life’ and positioning our state for future growth and economic opportunity,” Ricketts said.