600-Mile Expressway in Nebraska Could Be Done Four Years Early

Dec. 14, 2022
The head of NDOT estimated the completion of the long-delayed 600-mile expressway could be completed four years ahead of schedule

John Selmer, head of the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) told the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning that the completion of the state’s long-delayed 600-mile expressway system could be finished by 2036, rather than the previously predicted 2040, barring any "unforeseen issues".

Dating back to 1988 where the intent was to identify 16 corridors over 600 miles, and connect every Nebraska community larger than 15,000 people to an interstate with a four-lane, divided expressway, it was projected to be completed in 15 years, but multiple delays extended the project more than three decades.

About $1.8 billion has already been devoted to the project, and Selmer said about 70% has been completed. He said there’s still about $800 million worth of work to be done, amounting to about 136 miles of roadway.

Some of the remaining expressway that’s yet to be completed includes 46 miles encompassing eight projects along U.S. 275 a few miles northwest of Omaha, and 41 miles in six projects along U.S. 81 north of York.

Selmer credited the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) as one of the main reasons the department was able to accelerate work on the expressway. One significant portion of the project, an 11-mile stretch of the South Beltway in Lincoln, opens Wednesday, about six months ahead of schedule.

State Senator Mike Moser of Columbus, a member of the Appropriations Committee, asked if Selmer needed more state funding to improve efficiency within the department.

“Funding is one of the pieces of the puzzle that the Legislature has some control over …,” Moser said. “I think we should spend more on our highways and bridges.”

However, Selmer said there wasn’t an urgent need for additional state investment. Earlier in the same report, he said the department’s overall 20-year financial needs have dropped about 2% to $14.5 billion in today’s dollars, compared to the $14.8 billion reported last year. Accounting for inflation, department spokesperson Shannon Ankeny said that amounts to about $24.1 billion.

Selmer said one of the more urgent needs is addressing shortages in staffing and materials. Due to the incoming winter weather, he said the department has already put in some work consolidating existing resources, but he said over the past year he’s had a hard time retaining staff, in part due to Nebraska’s low unemployment rate.

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Source: Omaha.com