Nebraska could see a $1.2 billion economic benefit over a 15-year period, save commuters $7 million per year and reduce the number of traffic deaths if the long-delayed expressway system is completed in Northeast Nebraska, a new study states.
Goss & Associates Economic Solutions LLC, headed by Creighton University economic Ernie Goss, released Tuesday an economic impact study on the U.S. Highway 275 corridor for 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, an industry group that has formed to promote the completion of the expressway system.
The group held informational meetings in West Point and Norfolk on Tuesday about the study.
Nebraska Department of Roads first identified the need for an expressway system connecting the state’s major cities with the interstate system in 1969. More than 30 years ago, it began implementing its policy of building that expressway system.
“The expressway system was supposed to be completely entirely by 2003,” said Josh Moenning, executive director of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska. “Here we are 12 years later and Highway 275 and other important projects on the expressway are eight years even from consideration under the current funding structures the state has.”
There are about 45 miles of two-lane highway remaining along the U.S. 275 corridor between Omaha and Norfolk. Currently, the expressway ends east of Scribner.
“We believe a project like (U.S.) 275 and the expressway needs a dedicated focus effort to continue beating the drums that this is important for growth not only for the region of Northeast Nebraska, but the entire state,” Moenning said.
To help in that effort, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska commissioned Goss to do the impact study.
Among the findings:
* $1.2 billion would be added to the state’s gross domestic product over the 15 years after the project is completed.
* 1,315 jobs would be supported by completing the project.
* Commuters would save $7.1 million through reduced time on the road.
* Accidents per mile would be reduced 40 percent to 60 percent.
Construction of the final portions of the U.S. 275 expressway is estimated at $186.4 million. Goss expects that the state would see an additional $284.1 million in director and spillover economic activity, 1,035 jobs created per year and $94.6 million in wages, salaries and self-employment income during a two-year construction period.
“Let’s get it done somehow, some way, because economically this is a good thing for the economy,” Goss said.
But to move the project up the priority list, new funding strategies need to be explored, both Goss and Moenning said.
One option would be a public-private partnership, which help states finance needed transportation projects where other revenue sources are lacking, and bonding. Nebraska is one of two states – Wyoming is the other – that do not allow bonding for roads projects.
Both options would require changes in state law.
“Our focus is making progress, any forward progress, and we want to look at any and all funding options,” Moenning said.
“With this study we want to introduce some ideas that Nebraska hasn’t to this point embraced that other states have and are seeing some success in expediting large roads projects and that includes elements of public-private partnerships and bonding.”
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