Ricketts: Economic development should factor into road plans

Friday, June 27, 2014

McCOOK, Neb. -- Nebraska Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts fielded questions from area residents on a variety of topics earlier this week during a meet and greet at the Bieroc Cafe. Ricketts' strategy pertaining to road development sounded fairly close to what many McCook business leaders have rallied for in the past, considering economic impact along with safety and traffic counts.

As Governor, Ricketts said he would work with the Department of Roads to bring economic development into their way of thinking. Roads officials currently focus on safety and traffic counts when determining whether a new or expanded road is needed, according to Ricketts, who said he would like to expand that thinking to incorporate potential economic development.

Ricketts said a set of criteria would need to be established, so that road officials could consider the economic impact of projects such as increasing a two-lane road to a four-lane, but he believed there were scenarios where the expense of the project would be offset by the growth the project triggered. Ricketts indicated it would require accurately figuring out both the expense of a project and forecasting the traffic count increase that would result.

Ricketts also saw opportunities for improvement by reaching out to neighboring states and finding out what was working for them.

"What are other states doing? What is their per-lane-mile expense?" said Ricketts, adding the goal would be to seek out other state's best practices and bring them back to Nebraska.

Ricketts said his approach was about more than improving roads, it was about creating a mentality within the state government that sought continued improvement, the same approach his family's business, TD Ameritrade, saw success with.

When asked if he would push for new taxes to fund roads projects, Ricketts said he didn't believe revenue was the problem. Ricketts said Nebraska was already growing faster than the rest of the Midwest region when it came to manufacturing and the state was growing revenue in general at a healthy rate of five percent annually.

Ricketts said a recent report ranked Nebraska as the third-most taxed state. He said he didn't believe a lack of revenue was the issue and would rather take a closer look at spending, while maintaining an active pursuit of areas for improvement.

Ricketts responded to an inquiry about his approach to water by pointing out Nebraska was the largest irrigated state in the nation, with more than 9 million acres, which is why he believed water would always be an important issue.

Ricketts said Nebraska was the envy of the country "with our system of local control," pertaining to water management, and he would make pulling that group together and drafting a strategy for the future one of his top priorities.

The Keystone XL pipeline will be good for Nebraska and it is time to get it built, according to Ricketts.

Ricketts said transporting oil by pipeline was much safer than by railcar. He said more oil transported by rail was spilled in one year than in the previous 37 years via pipeline. An accident involving a railcar transporting oil in Canada also killed 47 people, which Ricketts indicated added to the narrative that transport via pipeline was safer.

"The lawsuit has to be resolved, but it's something that needs to be built," said Ricketts.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: