BY Chris Whitney, US92 NEWS
NORFOLK – A group looking to expand parts of Highway 275 to four lanes held a meeting Tuesday afternoon to release recent findings from a study they commissioned toward the possible road expansion.
Creighton University economics professor Dr. Ernie Goss conducted the study for the Norfolk-based group 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska. The study found expansion would add an estimated $1.2 billion to the state over a 15-year period, add more than 1,000 jobs during the span of road construction, and reduce the number of traffic accidents on Highway 275. The study noted that a conversion to 4 lanes on average reduces accidents by 40-60 percent.
Dr. Goss notes that the expansion to Highway 275 would be a benefit to not only the Norfolk area, but also help the economy of the entire state.
“As we looked at the entire state, the state benefits significantly in terms of overall economic activity and in terms of tax collections,” Goss says. “We’re also talking about jobs, 1,300 of them per year added to the Nebraska economy.”
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska is a public-private partnership, which Governor Pete Ricketts has been keen on to use more of throughout the state to fund various projects. Dr. Goss notes the funding from LB84, previously passed by the legislature in 2011, would not provide adequate funds to make 275 four lanes in a timely manner.
“Right now with LB84, you have many projects across the state and the funds there allowed by LB84, are probably insufficient to fund many projects like what we’re talking about here,” Goss says.
With low interest rates, Goss says their report recommends that Nebraska issue bonds now to pay for future expansion of Highway 275, which could begin in 2016.
“We’re talking about building today for benefits today and forward. That would be beginning in 2016 and going forward,” Goss notes. “In other words, building that, the expansion of 275, that construction alone creates economic activity.”
4 Lanes 4 Nebraska is a public-private partnership formed in December 2014, looking to expand Highway 275 to four lanes from east of Norfolk to just west of Fremont.