Officials push Nebraska to complete long-delayed expressways

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Officials in northeast Nebraska continue to press the state to complete it’s long-delayed system of four-lane expressways to connect every community larger than 15,000 people to an Interstate.

About 178 miles of the 600-mile system remains undone 33 years after the expressway system was launched back in 1988 with several of the missing links in parts of northeast Nebraska between the cities of Columbus and Norfolk and Interstate 80.

Concerns about the projects prompted a group of state senators and a lobbying group of area businesses and cities, called 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, to push for progress this spring, according to the Omaha World-Herald. A bill that would have allowed the state to issue about $400 million in construction bonds stalled in the legislature, but work is set to begin soon on a couple key highway segments.

Fremont Sen. Lynne Walz said she agreed to postpone the bonding bill after meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts, who opposes borrowing money to fund road construction. Ricketts agreed to visit Columbus, Fremont and Norfolk to explain the state’s plans.

State Transportation Department spokeswoman Jeni Campana acknowledged that the expressway work hasn’t been as fast as some want but she said progress is being made.

“Since last fall, we have celebrated work starting on the Heartland Expressway, Fremont Southeast Bypass, Lincoln South Beltway, and soon, U.S. 275 from Scribner to West Point and U.S. 75 from Murray to Plattsmouth,” Campana said.

Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood said the start of construction between Scribner and West Point was “huge” given the issues with wetland mitigation. He said he thinks the state is now “getting serious” about completing the expressways.

Mike Flood is the owner and founder of Flood Communications, which operates News Channel Nebraska.