Snowbird Trail offers potential for future growth

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New attention is being placed on the "Snowbird Trail," a proposed expressway which would carry carry highway traffic catty-corner across Nebraska from South Sioux City in the northeast to McCook in the southwest.

After reaching McCook -- the theory is -- traffic would flow to the west and southwest, thus carrying travelers to winter homes in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, hence the name "Snowbird Trail."

The idea was conceived by State Sen. Joel Johnson from Kearney. During his travels, Johnson became aware of the difficulty of traveling at angles. East to west and north to south are usually not a problem, because that is the direction of major roads. But northeast to southwest poses challenges for motorists, as does southeast to northwest and vice versa.

That's when it struck him that a northeast-to-southwest route across Nebraska had merit, especially since he knew that three major routes -- Interstate 29, U.S. 20 and and Iowa and Minnesota 60 -- converged at Sioux City, just across the line from Nebraska.

With that realization, Johnson began pondering the value of funneling that traffic across Nebraska to expedite the flow of traffic from the northern states and Canada to the American Southwest and Mexico.

To his credit, Sen. Johnson has remained faithful to his vision, talking about it at every opportunity. He has visited with both the McCook Chamber of Commerce and South Platte United Chambers of Commerce, and, just this week, received the endorsement of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce.

His Snowbird Trail plan also received favorable mention in the lead editorial in Thursday's Omaha World-Herald.

Even though the Hastings-to-McCook expressway link could be far in the future, this area will still be well-served to work closely with Johnson and other supporters of the Snowbird Trail.

Located midway between Interstate 70 and 80, McCook has missed the economic boom those routes have enjoyed. The northeast to southwest expressway idea presents future potential for economic growth, and therefore should be pursued seriously and promptly by state officials, the highway department and local chambers of commerce and economic boards.

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