Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015 8:57 am
WEST POINT — A recent study touting the economic and safety benefits of expanding the remainder of Highway 275 to four lanes has created some excitement in Cuming County and elsewhere.
It also has has some communities along the route hoping the excitement will provide enough momentum this time to get the project finished or, at the very least, scheduled for completion.
“There was a really good turnout,” said Mayor Marlene Johnson about the presentation by Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University in West Point on Tuesday. “I think it was good to hear it this time from someone else. They’ve heard me now for a lot of years. This is an entirely different group of people.”
Johnson, who is the president of the League of Nebraska Municipalities, said she has presented information previously about the benefits of completing the expressway from the point of views of cities along the route. This latest effort by the new 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska coalition includes support from businesses, counties and economic interests.
West Point and the League of Nebraska Municipalities supported then-state Sen. Deb Fischer’s Legislative Bill 84, which diverts one-quarter cent of the state sales tax revenue and earmarks it for highway funding.
When LB84 passed three years ago, it was hoped that it would generate enough funds to get some major road projects speeded up that were overdue. But so far, a Highway 275 expressway completion project is still just being talked about.
Johnson said she is encouraged by Gov. Pete Ricketts and his desire to support good roads.
“I don’t know if we can get this pushed ahead of the other roads that are already designated,” Johnson said. “They have just about everything designated for 10 years out.”
Beemer Mayor Doug Steffensmeier said he also wonders if the rest of the state views completing Highway 275 as important as Northeast Nebraska does.
Steffensmeier said he believes it should be finished — whether it means going through the remaining towns or constructing bypasses around them.
“Whatever progress can be made on it, let’s try to accomplish it,” Steffensmeier said.
Part of the solution will be figuring out if bypasses are necessary for Wisner, Beemer, West Point and Scribner. They were all scheduled to have bypasses when the project first was discussed more than 20 years ago.
In Beemer, the original plan from the Nebraska Department of Roads was to locate the bypass south of town.
It later was revised to locate it along abandoned railroad property. That plan won’t work, however, as most of the railroad property has been purchased by adjacent property owners and developed, including a grain elevator in Beemer.
Steffensmeier said the village board has not discussed the bypass recently.
Johnson said she has heard from residents in West Point who have mixed opinions. Some people believe it should not go through town because of safety. Others want it to go through town because of economic reasons or because it would be less disruptive to the nearby countryside.
Still others in town see both the benefits and drawbacks of either option.
“It’s been 20 years,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of economic development along Highway 275 over that time. Can we afford now to go out and let this happen to all our businesses that we encouraged to start up and grow?”
For a while, there was a feeling that four lanes for all of Highway 275 would never happen because the state kept indicating it had no money, she said.
At least now, the state has some money, Johnson said, but there are so many issues to consider that it isn’t clear whether 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska can accomplish its goal of speeding things up.