Highway expansion welcome announcement for Southwest Nebraska

Friday, September 23, 2016

Announcements Thursday in Lincoln and Friday in North Platte illustrate just how long major public works projects can take and how many people need to be involved.

Benefits of the highway projects announced will be felt for multiples of years by millions of people more, however.

First proposed by Gov. Kay Orr in the 1980s, the Nebraska expressway system was championed by Sen. Deb Fischer when she was still a state senator and current Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Former McCook Mayor Linda Taylor has been a long-time advocate of expanding the highway from McCook to North Platte, joining Highway Commissioner Greg Wolford and a number of other local economic development advocates to the cause of better transportation to Interstate 80 and beyond.

It will likely be the better part of a decade before U.S. 83 begins being expanded into a Super 2, with regular passing lanes to allow slower traffic to give way.

Our state government chose a responsible route in funding the expressway system, first through the Build Nebraska Act championed by Sen. Fischer, and then by the Transportation Innovation Act, which was Gov. Ricketts' top legislative priority in 2016.

The BNA set aside a quarter cent of existing Nebraska sales tax revenues for road construction, and the TIA commits funding from last year's gas tax hike to complete the expressway system originally envisioned by Gov. Orr.

Not only will the Super 2 make north-south travel more pleasant and efficient, but it should improve safety by allowing faster traffic to be on its way without risking head-on collisions with oncoming traffic.

Infrastructure like highways is one of the areas government can provide an important service in an efficient matter. It's gratifying that Southwest Nebraska is, in this case, receiving an appropriate share of state funding for some of that infrastructure.

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