NORFOLK – State officials can see the finish line on some major road projects, but local leaders say they’d like to see the line moved up a bit.
The Nebraska State Highway Commission held their latest meeting in Norfolk on Friday, giving Northeast Nebraska’s District 3 a chance to review the last year of projects, and take a look at the years ahead.
Most notably, the Commission outlined the first phase of the Highway 275 expansion project, which will likely have its design-builder selected early next year. Area business leaders expressed gratitude at the project, which they say will be a boon to the area.
“We are excited,” said Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce interim CEO Don Wisnieski. “Keep working hard on this and connect all those dots for us.”
But some think Nebraska is still waiting too long to get the expressway system completed. Some proposed the state join 48 others nationwide in opening up roads projects to bond financing, which they say could get better roads faster.
“[Bonding] would take advantage of historically low interest rates and mitigate the considerable expense of cost inflation,” said Norfolk Mayor and founder of 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska Josh Moenning. “As we’ve seen, the longer we wait to do these projects the more and more expensive they become.”
But state leaders aren’t sold on bond financing, saying they’ve made great strides without it.
“Nebraska has a long history of being a pay-as-you-go state and that’s served us well,” Nebraska Department of Transportation Director Kyle Schneweis said. “I think from our perspective that steady-as-you-go approach is something that we need to continue. I know we’re not getting as far down the road as some of us would like. But we are making that steady progress and it’s serving the state well.”
Schneweis outlined Nebraska’s ability to take care of environmental permitting that used to have to be done at the federal level as a way the state has streamlined its infrastructural process.
“Getting those projects done faster will save us time and money and we’re very excited about the progress we’re making there,” Schneweis said.
Speed of the projects notwithstanding, state leaders say northeast Nebraska is seeing the fruits of their efforts, with $116 million being spent on highway projects last year in District 3 alone.