YORK – A decade or so ago, there was a celebration in York as the four-lane progression of Highway 81 reached this community.
The four-lane expressway had been completed from Kansas to this town. The bypass around York was completed and officials from the Nebraska Department of Roads and the Pan American Highway Association celebrated the continuance of the expressway project.
Then things went silent.
Funding dried up and all talk about construction north of York to Columbus ended . . . with the exception of some annual notations that it was in the state’s long-term priority list.
This came despite the 1988 commitment to create a state expressway system that would link Nebraska communities to the interstate system with four-lane highways. Of the approximately 100 miles that are left unfinished – about half (46 miles) is on Highway 275 in northeast Nebraska and the other half (42 miles) is that stretch of Highway 81 from York to Columbus.
“Last fall, some economic developers started talking about how to put focus back on the 81 North project,” Lisa Hurley, executive director of the York County Development Corporation, told the county commissioners this week. “Josh Moenning, the director of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, talked with us as well. That organization was formed to put the focus on the expressway system – and to push forward legislation to finish the system.”
While the 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska organization was initially focused on the completion of the Highway 275 project, it now is extending its involvement for the same when it comes to Highway 81.
“Nebraska is the only state that has not finished the four-lane expressway on Highway 81,” Hurley continued, “which site selectors have asked me about. It does create disadvantages, by not being completed. I strongly feel, when talking to York County companies, that it would be of great benefit. If we had 81 finished, we would benefit.”
Moenning told the commissioners that his group’s mission is “to get priority designation to those projects. We did an economic impact study along Highway 275 and we would like to do the same for Highway 81. It addition to looking at how it could help economic growth, it would also show the safety benefit as well. Nebraska’s done a good job maintaining the system, it just hasn’t had the resources to move forward with the express system. We think the climate now is good and it could be put back on the radar screen.”
The impact study along Highway 275 was paid for the by counties to be impacted. In this case, the study along Highway 81 would be financed in the same way.
Hurley said the YCDC board was supportive of the study and felt it would show the positive impacts of completing Highway 81.
The cost of the $15,000 study would be financially shared between York, Platte and Polk Counties – if all the entities agree.
“Your goal is to introduce something in the next legislative session?” Commissioner Kurt Bulgrin asked, which Moenning said was the case. “So you will need to get moving on (the study).”
“I think this is a good idea,” said Commissioner Randy Obermier. “The ball needs to start somewhere. The four-lane project just stopped right here, years ago and I think it is a good idea for us to do our part as long as the other counties chip in, too.”
“I think this study is well worth the $5,000,” Bulgrin said, “and we can plug this into our budget discussion.”
“I think there is a general consensus that this is a good thing that could happen,” said Commissioner Bill Bamesberger, with the other commissioners nodding their approval of adding the expenditure to the budget.
Moenning will approach the other counties about their financing, as well.
Warning: Cannot assign an empty string to a string offset in /home/customer/www/4lanes4nebraska.com/public_html/wp-content/themes/flashlight/includes/helper-slideshow.php on line 290