YORK – Armed with a recent economic impact study and first-hand knowledge about the importance of transportation infrastructure, local officials testified Tuesday afternoon at a legislative committee hearing in a push to have Highway 81 finished once and for all.
York, Polk and Platte Counties financially participated in the new economic impact study to show the benefits of completing the four-lane stretch between York and Columbus.
Dr. Ernest Goss of The Goss Institute in Colorado presented his findings this past week during a public meeting in which approximately 60 people were in attendance.
Also participating in this study was Josh Moenning, the director of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska.
It was noted that 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska also participated in the cost of the study.
The findings were impressive.
Dr. Goss explained that this area for highway expansion has a much higher density of agriculture and manufacturing output than the rest of the state. “These are two sectors that are heavily dependent on adequate highways.”
The study says that “the manufacturing sector demands high quality highways and roads to operate successfully in an area. In a 2014 survey, Site Selection Magazine found that manufacturing executives and industry consultants named highway accessibility as the top location factor.
“Per 100 highway miles for the expansion in these counties, there are:
• Manufacturing employees: Highway 81 counties, 1,738.9; the rest of the state, 883.6.
• Manufacturing firms: Highway counties, 30.4; rest of the state, 17.4.
• Machinery manufacturing employees: Highway 81 counties, 225; rest of the state, 100.2.
• Machinery manufacturing firms: Highway 81 counties, 5.1; rest of the state, 1.8.
The study also looked at the impact on agriculture.
“The agriculture industry demands extensive and high quality highways and roads. Furthermore, farm output per highway mile is higher among Highway 81 counties than in other counties in the state.”
Dr. Goss says the expansion of Highway 81 would add $1.2 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, through expanded economic development. And it would annually support an additional 1,858 Nebraska jobs and 4,221 in state population.
He also stressed that by finally constructing the additional lanes, it would cut down the impact of accidents.
Dr. Goss said the Federal Highway Administration estimates that conversion of a two-lane highway to a four-lane divided highway reduces vehicle crashes between 40 and 60 percent.
He also stressed the extra lanes would provide for less commute times for workers in York, Polk and Platte Counties.
On Tuesday morning, York County Development Corporation Director Lisa Hurley told the York County Commissioners that the four-lane completion “is very much needed, as you all know. It would be about a $150 million project to complete and will take a commitment from the state. Having this economic impact study will help. This is a national corridor and the Nebraska is the only state that hasn’t complete the four-lane project. LB 960 would make a commitment for this to be finished.”
The commissioners also noted the negative impacts – according to Dr. Goss’ study – if the four-lane project is further delayed, even by two years. This included a loss of $151.5 million in economic development; $800,000 in added accident costs; $9.4 million in added costs for bond funding; $3.7 million in added construction costs; and $600,000 in added commute costs.
Hurley was one of the local officials to testify during Tuesday’s legislative hearing.
The York County Commissioners said they would be sending comments to District 24 Senator Mark Kolterman and other lawmakers, stressing the need to complete this important construction project.
Editor’s note: More details from the economic impact study will be provided, in greater detail, in the upcoming Viewpoint publication.
Economic value of continuing four lanes on Hwy 81
• $195.4 million to the Nebraska economic during construction period
• $20.7 million in value created from reduction in accidents
• 40-60% reduction in accidents
• $1.2 million in savings due to reduction in daily commute times
• Benefits to trucking and service sector
• $281 million in state and local taxes
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