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The North Bend Eagle


 

Bill could revive Hwy. 30 expressway

by Steven Cain, Nebraska News Service
Published 2/2/11

Assuring funding for the Nebraska Department of Roads for the next two decades is a key bill before the Legislature this year. If passed, the bill may resurrect the four-lane Highway 30 expressway project between Schuyler and Fremont and around North Bend. The project has been shelved by the Department of Roads because of a lack of funding.

On Jan. 6, Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine introduced a highway funding plan for 2013-2033. Under her bill one-half cent of existing sales tax would be reallocated to the Department of Roads. This would provide about $125 million a year to support Nebraska’s highway infrastructure.

“It takes long-term planning and long-term financing for government to supply an adequate transportation system for its citizens,” Fischer said.

The sales tax reallocation would last for 20 years under her plan. However, Fischer cited current economic turmoil as a reason for a proposed two-year delay.

“We’re making cuts in the budget,” Fischer said. “We’re doing it this year, and hopefully we’ll be doing it next year. Hopefully the economy will turn around by 2013 when the bill takes effect.”

Another reason Fischer provided for the delay is to give the Department of Roads a chance to line up projects that have been shelved for budgetary reasons.
Included in the bill is a requirement for $15 million a year to be spent on a statewide network of expressways, primarily four-lane roads.

“The expressway network was proposed in the 1980s,” said Mary Jo Oie, communication division manager for the Department of Roads, “but then funding stopped, so we had to cease the expressway.”

As of Oct. 20, 2005, 179 miles were left unfinished in this 600-mile project.

Sections of U.S. Highways 275 between Norfolk and Omaha, 81 between Columbus and York, 75/34 between Nebraska City and Omaha and 30 between Schuyler and Fremont were left incomplete due to lack of funding.

If the remaining 179 miles that were initially proposed are completed, the Department of Roads has additional expressways planned for U.S. Highways 385 from Scottsbluff through Chadron and 35 between Norfolk and South Sioux City.

“The expressway system was a promise made to many Nebraska communities more than 20 years ago,” Fischer said in a press release. “I believe it’s a duty of the Department of Roads, and our state government for that matter, to show some progress in fulfilling that promise.”

“After this budget crisis has passed, it is my intention to make highways a priority in Nebraska using existing revenue.”

You can find a copy of the highway funding bill at: http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/Current/PDF/Intro/LB84.pdf

For a map of the planned expressways, go to: http://www.transportation.nebraska.gov/needs/docs/xpressway-map.pdf

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