A New Year, A New Focus on Modernization
Over the holiday, I took a quick trip to Minneapolis. More than the immensity of the Mall of America and the sleekness of U.S. Bank Stadium (site of this year’s Super Bowl), I came away with this: On my 6 hour drive, I traversed three states and drove on just one two-lane highway. It was in Nebraska.
“Why can’t we have nice things?” Essentially, that’s the question I hear again and again from Nebraskans wondering why our four-lane road connections are so underdeveloped relative to neighboring states. Understandably so. Our inability to establish a modernized statewide system of roads holds down our quality of life, keeps communities from realizing real growth potential, and puts motorists at risk.
Fortunately, in recent years some state leaders have acted on the urgent need to do better. In 2015, the state gas tax was modestly increased to provide new support for roads projects. In 2016, the Transportation Innovation Act created the state’s first infrastructure bank, a new resource for expressway projects, and authorized more efficient contracting practices for road design and construction. In 2017, policy changes were made to reduce lengthy environmental review processes.
From these efforts, a new playbook was created to finish remaining expressway projects. Hwy 275, for example, is now slotted for construction to begin in 2019. That’s the good news. The bad news is the work is set for just half that project (Scribner to West Point), and other new construction priorities won’t see any work until 2024 at the earliest.
As Nebraska’s only statewide infrastructure advocacy group, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska is proud to have helped prompt recent progress and will spend the next year working for more. We will work to preserve existing transportation funding, engage elected officials and candidates on the importance of infrastructure, and integrate the business and industry community in the transportation policy discussion. All to help prepare the way for creative, prudent solutions that provide the resources needed to get more expressway projects done more quickly.
In 2018, the Nebraska Expressway System turns 30 years old. Today, nearly one-third of the program, designed to be finished by 2003, remains undone. Let’s make this year the year that changes. Stay tuned in coming weeks and months; we’ll need your continued help and support.
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska Executive Director
2016- A Landmark Year
December 29, 2016
2016 was a landmark year for infrastructure investment in Nebraska. Your advocacy on behalf of finishing the Nebraska Expressway System helped make it so.
In April, the Transportation Innovation Act, which directs $450 million (over 17 years) to the expressway system and other infrastructure projects, was passed on a vote of 48-0 in the Nebraska Legislature and signed by the Governor.
Over the summer, the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) held a series of public input sessions on project prioritization. In September, NDOR announced eight new road construction priorities, including Hwy 275 and the Heartland Expressway, and 12 new design project priorities, including Hwy 81, Hwy 77, and Hwy 75.
While a new playbook for modernizing our state’s infrastructure is in place, the timeline for completion is slow. Besides Hwy 275 (projected to begin in 2019), new construction priorities won’t see work until 2024.
Thanks to your engagement in our cause and commitment to our efforts, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska will continue its work as a statewide business and industry advocate for policy reform and modernized infrastructure systems. We will engage in new opportunities to improve project delivery, fight efforts to divert transportation funding, engage new lawmakers on the significance of infrastructure investment, and explore options for new federal support for key Nebraska corridor projects.
Infrastructure modernization is economic development. Look at a map of Nebraska. The places that are growing are connected with modern infrastructure. The longer we wait to connect our communities, the more growth opportunities pass us by. This year we brought new attention to infrastructure development and created new momentum. Let’s keep building on it.
Today Gov. Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Roads announced new priorities for road construction and planning. The $300 million investment, made possible by legislation passed in recent years, is a new playbook of sorts for creating a modern system of roads across our state.
You can view a map and full listing of announced projects here: http://roads.nebraska.gov/projects/grow-ne/cap-improve/selection/
The plan clearly values finishing our long overdue expressway system, an early priority for 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska. That system’s longest unfinished segment, Hwy 275 from east of Norfolk to northwest of Fremont, receives special attention, chosen as the state’s first “design build” project with construction to begin by 2019. We commend the Governor, the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) and its Director Kyle Schneweis, Sen. Jim Smith, Sen. Jim Scheer, and all involved in formulating the policies and creating the framework to make this new work possible.
Innovative policymaking, coupled with crucial reforms within NDOR, including the consideration of economic growth and public input, spurred a significant change in Nebraska’s transportation planning. There are many years of lost time to make up, so infrastructure resource investment and creative policy planning must continue to be top priorities in years to come.
You can help ensure they will by staying engaged in the process. Make sure your elected representatives know how important infrastructure investment is to your community. Encourage your friends and neighbors to join our coalition. Thank you for your support!
Be a Part of the Process!
The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) is asking to hear from you. Next week NDOR is hosting eight meetings across the state with the purpose of gathering public input on which roads projects deserve priority and might most benefit our state and regional economies.
It is very important that you make your voice heard at these meetings. NDOR is taking a new approach to project selection and prioritization. Unlike years past, NDOR is now taking into account public input, in addition to the economic growth potential related to infrastructure development. It’s a welcome change – one that can help grow our communities – and all Nebraskans should take the opportunity to make it count by participating in the process.
Following is the schedule of meetings. Please plan to attend one nearest you and share your thoughts on how best we build better infrastructure across our state.
Beatrice | July 13, 2016
Holiday Inn, 4005 N. 6th St.
La Vista | July 13, 2016
Embassy Suites, 12520 Westport Pkwy.
Norfolk | July 14, 2016
Lifelong Learning Center, 701 E Benjamin Ave
Grand Island | July 14, 2016
Bosselman Conference Center, 700 E Stolley Park Rd.
North Platte | July 15, 2016
Quality Inn & Suites, 2102 S. Jeffers St.
McCook | July 15, 2016
Community Hospital, 1301 E. H St.
Valentine | July 18, 2016
Niobrara Lodge, 803 East Highway #20
Gering | July 19, 2016
Gering Civic Center, 1050 M St.
Dirk Petersen, chairman of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, speaks about the importance of infrastructure modernization to growing Nebraska. Governor Pete Ricketts signs LB 960, the Transportation Innovation Act, into law.
After months of public hearings and legislative discussion, LB 960, the Transportation Innovation Act, is now law. Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the bill this afternoon in Lincoln.
A focus of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska’s legislative efforts for 2016, LB 960 will kickstart work on the long-stalled Nebraska Expressway System and improve our state’s infrastructure. With the new funding and project delivery tools it provides, a new State Infrastructure Bank and “design build” contracting, the Department of Roads will begin the process of selecting expressway projects that can begin earlier and be finished more quickly than ever before
Gov. Ricketts, Sen. Jim Smith, the Transportation Committee Chairman, Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer, the team at the Nebraska Department of Roads, and several others worked creatively and collaboratively to shape and advance the legislation. But it was your engagement, as taxpaying Nebraskans, businesspeople, community leaders, and concerned citizens, that propelled progress. Decades ago, the State promised taxpayers a system of modern roadways that would connect our communities. Your voices, demanding this promise in fact be kept, renewed efforts to finish the job.
While LB 960 is an important step forward in modernizing our state’s transportation infrastructure, it’s a first step. Stay engaged as the Nebraska Department of Roads now prioritizes key projects. Stay engaged with 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska as we continue to advocate for 21st century infrastructure that keeps Nebraskans safe, grows our communities, and better connects our state’s diverse regions.
“The salvation of the State is watchfulness in the citizen.”
These words are etched in stone on the Nebraska State Capitol building. Today, your watchfulness resulted in positive action. Keep at it – and we’ll keep moving forward.
LB 960, the Transportation Innovation Act, has taken a big step forward! The bill, introduced by Sen. Jim Smith on behalf of Gov. Pete Ricketts, this week received unanimous support from the Appropriations Committee and will advance to the floor of the Legislature.
As you may know, LB 960 creates a State Infrastructure Bank and permits use of what’s called “design-build” for roads projects. Both practices are used in a majority of states to accelerate work on large infrastructure projects and complete them more quickly and efficiently. The committee’s amended version of the bill designates a greater level of funding to the infrastructure bank over time than was requested in the original proposal. The funding is primarily directed to finishing the long-stalled expressway system; it also will help repair and replace county bridges and fund transportation-related economic development opportunities.
This is a significant development for Nebraskans’ safety and for Nebraska’s growth as a state. These new policies and this level of investment together are a huge step forward in delivering 21st century infrastructure to the people of Nebraska. But the work’s not over yet. In coming weeks, the bill will be debated on the floor of the Legislature. It is imperative that your state representatives continue to hear from you about the importance of finishing the job.
We appreciate our lawmakers’ willingness to be creative and invest in Nebraskans’ potential, and we look forward to seeing this legislation through the process to the Governor’s signature.
The Transportation Innovation Act
Just a few weeks ago, a bill was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature that would help modernize Nebraska’s transportation policies. It’s LB 960, the Transportation Innovation Act, and it was introduced by Sen. Jim Smith, the Transportation Committee Chairman, on behalf of Gov. Pete Ricketts.
The bill is a good and necessary first step in updating our state’s infrastructure and reforming our transportation policies. The main components of LB 960 – the creation of a State Infrastructure Bank and allowance of “design-build” in project delivery – would enable the Nebraska Department of Roads to accelerate work on long-stalled expressway projects and federally designated high priority corridors, such as Hwy 275, Hwy 81, and the Heartland Expressway, as well as partner with local governments on needed bridge repair and help facilitate new economic opportunities. Neither practice is new – 33 states have State Infrastructure Banks and 47 states use “design-build.”
LB 960 will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 16. This is the bill’s first big test in the legislative process. It’s important the committee members understand the deep impact this policy can have on economic growth and public safety across our state. If you can’t attend the hearing in Lincoln, and you wish to express your support of the bill and provide input, you can find information on how to contact Appropriations Committee members and your elected officials directly at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/senators/senator_list.php.
The Transportation Innovation Act will help finish the stalled expressway system and create good-paying jobs, grow our communities, and make our roads safer. The time is now to move forward. Make your voice heard; contact your lawmakers about the critical need to advance LB 960, the Transportation Innovation Act.
It’s been just about a year since 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska got its start as a business and industry advocate for better transportation infrastructure across our state. Thanks to your support and continued engagement, we’ve made real progress. Here’s a quick review:
From the start, we’ve focused on three key goals:
Public Education. Right from the beginning it was important to remind Nebraskans of the history of the long-neglected Nebraska Expressway System, a progressive transportation policy signed into law by Gov. Kay Orr in 1988. This plan, designed to connect all major Nebraska communities to the Interstate with four-lane highways, was to be finished by 2003. Today, nearly 200 miles of the 600-mile system remain unfinished and unprioritized. As a result, promised expansions of key commerce corridors like Hwy 275 (Norfolk to Fremont), Hwy 81 (York to Columbus), and the Heartland Expressway (Nebraska Panhandle) have been left twisting in the wind, hampering economic growth and risking motorists’ safety.
To demonstrate the economic and public safety benefits of finishing the Expressway System, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska commissioned an impact study of Hwy 275 expansion. Conducted by Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University, the study showed expansion of this busy ag and manufacturing corridor would result in thousands of new jobs and $145 million more to the State’s GDP annually, in addition to a reduction of accidents by 40 to 60 percent. A similar study on Hwy 81 expansion will soon be finalized.
Coalition Building. A 21st Century transportation system is not just a northeast Nebraska concern, it’s a Nebraska concern. We quickly moved to build partnerships with communities and regions across the state. Today, our board of directors includes industry and civic leaders from Chadron to Bellevue. You can see a list of our current board of directors here.
In addition to Hwy 275, Hwy 81, and the Heartland Expressway, the Expressway System includes key projects like the Lincoln South Beltway, Hwy 30 (Schuyler to Fremont), Hwy 77 (Wahoo to Fremont), and Hwy 75 (Plattsmouth to Nebraska City). Nebraskans understand that had these projects been done following the promised timeline, their communities would have benefitted from economic growth opportunities, increased safety, and improved quality of life. Today, expediting and finishing the work requires Nebraskans from all corners of the state demanding their representatives do their jobs by fulfilling the Expressway obligation.
Policy Change. Frankly, Nebraska’s nearly 30 year-old Expressway System is nowhere close to finished because Nebraska’s transportation policies are as outdated as our crowded 1930s two-lane highways. By the way of public discourse, regular meetings with elected officials, and public hearings held by the Transportation Committee throughout the fall, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska advocated for real reform and modernization of our state’s transportation policies. We testified at several hearings and participated in several forums throughout the state. Read more at Omaha.com.
We enter 2016 with hope for needed changes and a solid foundation to build upon. Senator Jim Smith, chairman of the Transportation Committee, championed LB 610 earlier this year to boost local and state transportation funding. Governor Ricketts and new Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) Director Kyle Schneweis have announced the inclusion of economic development potential as key criteria in prioritizing highway projects, a stark change to NDOR’s “traffic count only” focus over recent years. Recentpolicy discussions have centered on adopting innovative approaches that have shown success in other states, including the establishment of a State Infrastructure Bank, a revolving loan fund that helps accelerate large projects, and the use of “design build,” a project delivery method that saves time and money.
There’s clearly more discussion to be had. For example, 48 states issue bonds to speed up highway construction. And even though our schools, cities, and counties bond for infrastructure improvements, and everyday Nebraskans use market finance to close major investments on homes, farmland, and business expansions, the State of Nebraska cannot bond to build highways. No sensible reason has been offered as to why this is so, particularly in light of historically low interest rates and the clear ability to issue bonds without raising taxes or obligating general fund revenues. On this matter we will continue to press the case that, for the good of our state and its citizens, pragmatism and common sense must trump politics.
2015 was a seminal year for paving the way to transportation policy reform in Nebraska. 2016 can put us on a path to getting work done. To finish the Expressway System, we need your continued participation. Talk to your state representatives. Their choice is simple: make good faith efforts now to finish the work on the Expressway System or neglect your obligations to following the law.
Help us help them make the right, responsible choice, and 2016 will prove a success!
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska – November 20, 2015
“Let’s do something big and get something done.” Those were the words concluding the testimony of a 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska board member at the Transportation Committee’s hearing in Norfolk. The public was engaged (about 130 people attended and nearly 30 testified), there was a statewide media presence (see the front-page stories of the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World Herald), and state senators walked away having heard a clear, consistent message: finish the job on the Nebraska Expressway System.
Similar hearings have been held in Scottsbluff, where 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska announced a partnership with the Heartland Expressway Association, and Grand Island. Recently, the Kearney Hub advocated finishing the Expressway System, including projects such as Hwy 275, saying, “”If Gov. Pete Ricketts is looking for ways to grow Nebraska’s economy, he should look at rewriting the book on planning and paying for highway projects.” Read it here.
Signs of progress are evident. Recently, the new Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) Director Kyle Schneweis announced the NDOR would begin taking economic growth potential into account in the priority selection process for roads projects, a critical step for needed highway expansion projects like Hwy 275 and Hwy 81. Read it here.
We need to keep pressing. Transportation policy figures to be a top issue in the legislative session beginning in January. (see this recent Associated Press story). There are two more Transportation Committee hearings, one in Bellevue on Dec. 1 and the last in Lincoln on Dec. 3.
It’s time to step up the call for finishing the Expressway System by modernizing the way Nebraska finances and builds roads. Talk to your elected officials. Write to your local newspaper. Support the work of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska. If you don’t make your voice heard, we’ll end getting what we’ve always gotten – and that’s not good enough.
Tired Of Hwy 275’S Two Lanes? Here’s Your Chance To Be Heard!
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska – September 14, 2015
Tired of Hwy 275’s two lanes? Sick of decades of unkept promises? Want to remind our elected representatives that we haven’t forgotten? This week you have a platform to say something.
On Wednesday, the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee will be in Norfolk for a public hearing regarding our state’s roads needs. It starts at 1:30 pm at Northeast Community College’s Lifelong Learning Center.
The first of six hearings planned across the state, it provides a great opportunity for northeast Nebraskans to remind elected officials of the state’s obligation to finish the Expressway System, of which Hwy 275 expansion is a primary part. If you can attend the hearing, please do. Here are a few key points that will help shape the discussion:
- The Expressway System, a plan enacted in 1988, must be finished. Designed to connect all major Nebraska communities to the Interstate with a four-lane highway, the 600-mile plan was supposed to be entirely finished by 2003. To date, 433 miles have been completed or let to contract. Nearly 170 miles are unfinished, without hope for prioritization or funding anytime soon unless elected officials act.
- The Expressway System impacts the entire state. The longest undone portion of the system is Hwy 275 (48 miles from Pilger to Scribner). Hwy 81 expansion from York to Columbus is 43 miles. The Lincoln beltway projects are also part of the Expressway System, as is Hwy 30 from Schuyler to Fremont and the Heartland Expressway in the Panhandle.
- Leaving the Expressway System undone is costing us jobs and risking citizens’ safety. A study by Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University found that 1,000 jobs would be created during construction of Hwy 275, and 1,300 more would result from economic development due to expansion. The Hwy 275 project would add $145 million to the state’s GDP each year. It would also save lives. Hwy 275 counties now have a 62 percent higher traffic fatality rate than the rest of the state, and accidents on the two-lane portion of 275 are 152 percent higher than on the four-lane portion.
- We need to modernize the way Nebraska finances and builds roads. Guess how many states use bonding to help pay for highway construction? 48. Guess who doesn’t? Nebraska and Wyoming. Pay-as-you-go is a noble concept, but it’s also the reason we have a 30 year-old highway program that’s not close to finished. Who among us could pay cash to buy our homes? Still, was your home a good investment? A bond can be limited to a specific project or set of projects, like finishing the Expressway System, it can make sensible use of historically low interest rates, and it can be paid for with state tax revenue that’s already collected specifically for transportation needs. Beyond bonding, a majority of states use other strategies that help build more roads more efficiently, such as basic public-private partnership programs like design-build agreements that expedite the construction process, and State Infrastructure Banks that provide alternative sources of funding. Nebraska does neither. Why not?
Finishing the Expressway System could create thousands of jobs across our state, grow new economic opportunities in both rural and urban Nebraska, better connect our diverse communities and regions, and save lives. If politicians are serious when they talk about growing Nebraska, they should be serious about investing in growth opportunities. Finishing the Expressway System is not only a clear-cut growth opportunity, it’s honoring a commitment made to Nebraska taxpayers decades ago. On Wednesday, let’s take the opportunity to remind them we haven’t forgotten.
We need your help with the Highway 275 expansion effort!
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska – August 17, 2015
Earlier this year, we came together as industry and business leaders to form 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, with the goal of developing better transportation infrastructure across the state. Getting key road projects like Hwy 275 back on the radar screen – and reminding Nebraskans of the State’s obligation to finish the nearly 30 year-old expressway system – has been an important early goal for the organization.
Since January, we’ve published a comprehensive study of the benefits of Hwy 275 expansion, assisted in the national search for a new Department of Roads Director, and built coalitions of support for finishing the expressway among communities and regions across the state.
Now we are exploring creative funding options to build 21stcentury infrastructure across Nebraska. In the weeks and months ahead, we will work to craft policy solutions that help secure funding and prioritization for Hwy 275 and similar projects.
We will also continue to build the public case that leaving the job on the expressway undone is not only unfair to taxpayers, it’s costing our state opportunities to grow the economy while risking citizens’ safety.
But we need your help to be successful. We need your financial support – to help pay budgeted costs for research and education, marketing, lobbying, salary, and expenses. Your contribution of $5,000, $1,000, $500, $100 or anything you can afford would greatly help in this regard. We will also need your public support – your willingness to communicate your support for getting the job done on Hwy 275 and finishing the expressway.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our request. We’re all in this together! It’s time to move 275 forward!
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska – May 7, 2015
More than 1300 new jobs. $145 million added annually to the state’s GDP. Reduction of traffic accidents by an estimated 40 to 60 percent.
These were just a few of the notable figures included in our recently released study of the benefits of expanding Hwy 275 from two to four lanes in northeast Nebraska. The study, conducted by Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University, noted that industries “with substantial projected increases in employment opportunities due to highway improvements,” such as manufacturing, primary metals production, cattle feeding and farming, are more heavily concentrated in Hwy 275 counties than in the rest of Nebraska. It also demonstrated the clear public safety need for this project: today traffic deaths are 62 percent higher in Hwy 275 counties than the rest of the state while accident rates are 152 percent higher on the two-lane portions of the highway than the current four-lane segments. Thank you to all of those who attended our town hall meetings in West Point and Norfolk, where Dr. Goss outlined the study. You can see KTIV’s coverage of the study’s release here.
The study also explored ways to fund new roads projects. Some of these options are “new to Nebraska,” such as bonding and “public private partnerships.” Nebraska is one of only two states (us and Wyoming) that do not allow bonding for highway construction, and we’re one of 17 states that have not yet allowed for any form of public-private partnership models for new road projects. To read more about these options, please see this Lincoln Journal Star editorial about our study. In the coming weeks and months, we will be working with the Governor and the Transportation Committee Chairman in the Legislature to explore responsible funding options for finishing the state’s nearly 30 year-old, unfinished expressway system. We also look forward to working with the newly named Department of Roads Director, Kyle Schneweis, whose background in the Kansas Department of Transportation includes long-term planning, working with federal regulators, and implementing creative new financing plans for improved road systems. You can read more about Kyle here.
The research is clear: by leaving promised highway expansion work undone, we are losing economic opportunities as a state and risking citizens’ safety. If we’re serious about growing Nebraska, we must be serious about investing in growth opportunities, and Hwy 275 expansion is a clear-cut opportunity for new growth and improved public safety.
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska
Join Us As We Introduce Our Economic Impact Study April 7!
Once upon a time, Nebraska had a “big picture” plan for roads. It was called the Expressway System, and it was designed to better connect our urban and rural areas and improve connectivity between our state’s diverse regions. Much of it has been completed, but nearly 30 years since it became law, vital segments hang in the balance and work remains undone.
Created in 1988, the Expressway System was designed to link larger Nebraska communities (those with 15,000 or more in population) to the Interstate System with four-lane highways. Nearly 500 of the plan’s original 600 miles have been completed. Of the approximately 100 miles that are left unfinished, Hwy 275 in northeast Nebraska is about half (46 miles). The other half is Hwy 81 from York to Columbus (42 miles).
Through 2006, the Expressway System was a priority of the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR). You could find it featured front and center inNDOR’s “2006 State Highway Needs Assessment,” complete with a list of future expressways to be prioritized once the original plan was complete. But in 2007, talk of the Expressway System went away. As in vanished. Like it never existed. And while LB 84, passed in 2011 to designate part of the state sales tax to roads funding, helped put some individual expressway projects back into play, it does not provide enough resources to finish the Expressway System in a timely manner.
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska believes the State has an obligation to finish the plan it started. It was supposed to be done altogether by 2003. Twelve years later, key projects like Hwy 275, a critical piece of the original Expressway plan, are not even eligible to be considered for another eight years. This is not only negligent and unjust, it’s impeding our state’s growth.
In the next few weeks, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska will release the findings of an economic impact study we’ve been working on with Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University. The study will show the benefits of modernized infrastructure in terms of economic growth, public safety, and quality of life to our region and our state.
On Tuesday, April 7, Dr. Goss will outline the study.
Please join us at the Nielsen Community Center in West Point at Noon
or at the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce building in Norfolk at 3:30 pm.
Anyone with an interest in improving our roadways is welcome to attend.
A bold and progressive plan at its time, the Expressway System has brought great benefit to communities across our state where it’s been put in place. If we are serious about growing Nebraska – all of Nebraska – we need to invest and facilitate new growth by embracing 21st century infrastructure. We need to finish the plan we started, and chart a new course for the future – for the benefit of generations of Nebraskans to come.
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska
A few weeks ago, 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska announced its organization and purpose: promoting 21st century infrastructure in Nebraska. The interest was strong (see articles from the Associated Press, Lincoln Journal Star, Norfolk Daily News and Omaha World Heraldbelow) and widespread. We received requests for more information and notes of encouragement from people across the state.
Since that time, we’ve met with elected officials on the local and state levels. Last week, we met with Governor Pete Ricketts, using the opportunity to highlight the importance of transportation infrastructure development as a key to new economic growth and increased quality of life.
We’re also working on an economic impact study. The study will examine the benefits of the four-lane expansion of Highway 275 from east of Norfolk to northwest of Fremont. It will explore the economic impacts of reduced commute times for workers and businesses, the potential for new investment along the corridor, the value of decreased accidents, and alternative approaches to roads funding.
Through these efforts, we’ll continue to make the case that the State needs to fulfill its commitment to connecting Nebraska communities with a modernized transportation system.
Here’s how you can help. Encourage your friends to “Join the Cause” on our website. Let us know if you have an organization in your community that is interested in our effort and would like us to come speak. Talk to your elected officials. Projects like this don’t happen overnight, but together we’ll keep pressing the case.
Let’s Grow Nebraska with 21st Century Infrastructure
By Josh Moenning, Executive Director
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska
Thank you for your interest in modernizing Nebraska’s infrastructure. Earlier today, we announced the formation of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska. We’re a coalition of business, industry, and community interests dedicated to making a simple case: Northeast Nebraska deserves 21st century infrastructure.
Our region is growing, but outdated roadways are costing us countless opportunities to help move our state forward. We hope to work creatively and constructively within our communities and with policymakers to make Highway 275’s expansion a reality.
Following is the press release announcing our organization. Please stay engaged. Visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. To make progress, we need your continued support and participation!
Group will Target Hwy 275 Expansion for Economic, Safety Benefits; Hires Moenning as Executive Director
Norfolk, NE — A coalition of industry and business interests in northeast Nebraska today announced the organization of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, a trade and advocacy organization promoting the modernization of Nebraska’s transportation infrastructure. The group will focus immediately on the expansion of Highway 275 from two to four lanes from east of Norfolk to west of Fremont. It has hired Josh Moenning, former District Director for U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Policy and Communications Director for Pete Ricketts’ gubernatorial campaign, to lead the organization.
“We’ve come together to make a simple point: Northeast Nebraska deserves 21st century infrastructure,” Moenning said. “With 1940s roadways, our steelmakers, manufacturers, cattle feeders, farmers, and small businesses remain isolated from major markets. We have tremendous potential for new growth and increased quality of life, but outdated infrastructure is costing us countless opportunities to help the state move forward. We hope to work constructively and creatively within our communities and with policymakers to make Hwy 275’s expansion a reality. ”
“Expanding Highway 275 is critically important to Nucor,” said Dirk Petersen, General Manager of Nucor Steel in Norfolk. “We are poised for significant new growth. Having access to an interstate to realize that growth is crucial.”
“We’ve been living on an island here for too long,” said Richard Robinson, President of Norfolk Iron & Metal. “For the good of our families and communities, it’s time to finish the work of connecting our major communities with four-lane highways.”
“The 275 corridor is cattle country, the largest cattle feeding area in America,” said JD Alexander, owner of Alexander Cattle and Farms of Pilger. “More cattle are hauled up and down this road by more trucks every day. We need a better and safer highway.”
“Manufacturers rely on safe, efficient roadways to get products to market,” said Jeff Scherer, Chief Financial Officer of Smeal Fire Apparatus Company of Snyder. “This is a manufacturing corridor. We need to get the right infrastructure in place.”
“Our communities thrive when people and goods travel smoothly and safely,” said Nadine Hagedorn, Community President of Citizens State Bank in West Point. “Highway 275 expansion would be a boon for area small businesses and community growth.”
“This is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the state,” said Dennis Baumert, owner of Scribner Grain in Scribner. “Our farm products end up all over the country and all over the world, but getting them in and out of this area is more difficult than it should be.”
Petersen, Robinson, Alexander, Scherer, Hagedorn, and Baumert are founding members of the 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska board of directors. Moenning will serve as the organization’s executive director, managing its education, research, and public relations efforts.
Highway 275 was constructed as a two-lane highway in northeast Nebraska in 1939. In 1988, the State of Nebraska enacted transportation policy to prioritize the connection of each major Nebraska community to an interstate system via a four-lane highway. Highway 275 remains one of the few unfinished segments within the 600-mile statewide expressway system.