'Infrastructure bank' has statewide, local potential

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Red Willow County doesn't have any bridges in dire need of repair, and a four-lane highway from McCook to North Platte isn't in the plan, but a bill signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts paves the way for those types of improvements elsewhere in the state.

LB960 creates an "infrastructure bank" to provide a framework for infrastructure improvement that should be considered for similar efforts at all levels of government.

Some of the major highway projects have been languishing since being approved by Gov. Kay Orr in 1988.

Over 17 years, the bill dedicates $400 million from the state's fuel tax and up to $50 million from the cash reserve fund to complete more than 130 unfinished miles of four-lane expressways in places like Fremont, Columbus, Nebraska City and Norfolk, and sets aside $40 million to help repair and replace county bridges, plus another $20 million for transportation-related economic development. The latter would include projects like improving roads around new businesses.

The bill also attempts to speed up the process by adopting the design-build process for expressway construction, which makes one entity responsible for both plans and construction, which should speed up the process by two to four years.

The bill was passed with the emergency clause, meaning it went into effect as soon as Ricketts signed it. Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis said work on the expressway system could begin as soon as 2019.

Infrastructure repair and construction is one of government's most important functions, and measures like LB960 help it meet that obligation.

The City of McCook created its own "infrastructure bank" by setting aside funding to deal with the unknowns associated with our unique water treatment plant and other projects, but that reserve fund has grown to the point that $300,000 was able be loaned to other city departments for equipment purchases.

Major repairs could quickly deplete the city's reserve funds, however, so any state help in infrastructure repair would surely be welcome.

Check out the current status of the 1988 Expressway System plan { http://1.usa.gov/1SX6iIV here.}

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