Highly anticipated Highway 275 project officially begins

WEST POINT - The effort to create a four-lane expressway from Scribner to West Point officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday at the Nielson Community Center.  

"There was a promise made that it would get started sometime between 1980 and 2003. Obviously, that deadline came and went so there's been a lot of frustration," said Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning.

The U.S. Highway 275 expansion project would widen the roadway into four lanes from Scribner to West Point.

"It's a very dangerous, outdated corridor. We've already seen very tragic loss of life again this season," Moenning said.

So why the delay? Governor Pete Ricketts said there were several obstacles.

"Going back to the flooding of 2019 [...] and working with our partners like the Army Corps of Engineers to get permitting, all these things have had to happen," he said. 

Engineers also had to look at how the construction will impact the environment. Chief of the Regulatory Branch Eric Laux explains they're neither in support nor against the highway -- rather, their responsibility was to make sure decisions were balanced. 

"We're interested in not being in the way of smart development," Laux said.

So they met with wildlife experts and the Department of Transportation to reach a mutual agreement.

"A lot of people talk about Nebraska like a great American desert but we know it is not, there's a lot of water so it creates an obstacle for us to figure out how to get through this region," said Jeni Campana, Nebraska Dept. Transportation spokesperson.

But the challenges aren't over yet. Moenning says one thing will be difficult to keep up with: funding.

Ideally, the highway could even out costs by creating more income through jobs for construction workers and easy transportation of ag products. Until then, people in northeast Nebraska wait eagerly for the new infrastructure -- which they could drive on within three years.

"Highway 275 was everywhere to go," said Brenda Mayer Von-Serggen, a West Point resident from a family of surveyors.

Construction is already underway.

The Department of Transportation said at any time during the project, at least two lanes will always be open.