ROAD/BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION: Nebraska lawmakers want to borrow to fund more projects, but DOT has reservations

Agency wants to maintain stability, predictability and fiscal responsibility

February 13, 2014

When it comes to borrowing, Nebraska’s Department of Roads is not lending a whole lot of support.

Although the Highway Commission support bill LB 1092, which would allow the state to borrow money for highway projects to take advantage of low interest rates, there were some high-ranking members who had some concerns, and Department of Roads Director Randy Peters opposed such a move.

Under LB 1092, bonds would be issued by mid-2020, could not go over $400 million and would have to be repaid by 2033. Money from the state’s Highway Cash Fund and Build Nebraska Act could be used to make payments. However, tying Build Nebraska Act cash to repaying bonds could reduce the highway department’s flexibility if federal funding was reduced or eliminated.

Peters said the move could cause a false hope of project acceleration for those jobs that are yet in the planning phase.

“We are very concerned that it would set a expectation that $400 million in additional construction, on top of the work already planned, could be accelerated by four or five years,” he said.

The Department of Roads would be able to use the $400 million any way it chooses, but some officials are wondering if the money would even be used. Current funding methods are matching up well with projects already under way, and Highway Commission Chairman Rodney Vandeberg questioned the need for LB 1092.