NORFOLK – As Nebraska legislators start to look at what they’ll be facing in the 2016 unicameral, the issue of widening highways is particularly important to northeast Nebraska.
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee held a three and a half hour hearing in Norfolk on Wednesday afternoon, hearing testimony from various business leaders, city representatives from the area, and others who feel widening Highway 275 to four lanes would bring substantial economic benefits to the area. Norfolk State Senator Jim Scheer is hopeful that the committee, which is comprised of senators mostly from the Omaha area, understands the importance of finding money for road expansions in northeast Nebraska after the project was supposed to be completed over a decade ago.
“We’ve got a broken promise here. It’s unfinished business and we don’t mind waiting in line for our turn, but it is our turn and we’d like it to be finished.”
Touting not only the economic impacts, but also safety and quality of life as reasons to complete the Highway 275 expansion project, the group 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska has been leading the push in northeast Nebraska. Executive Director Josh Moenning says that 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska is not only pushing for expansion of Highways 275 and 81 to four lanes, but others across the state that will continue to drive economic growth.
“I think the elected officials will get the message that finishing the expressway is a statewide need. We need to take action to modernize how we finance our roads here and get these projects done.”
The big question is figuring out where the money will come from. Area leaders are hopeful that the state can find alternative ways to fund the expansion of Highways 275, 81, 75, and 77 to four lanes, which would cost approximately $468 million. The committee will hold other meetings throughout the state later this week.