Gov. Pillen Touts $21 Million in Federal Funding for I-80 Construction


Laura Strimple, (402) 580-9495

Jacy Schafer, (531) 510-8529

Gov. Pillen Touts $21 Million in Federal Funding for I-80 Construction

LINCOLN, NE -- Governor Jim Pillen is touting the receipt of a $21.2 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant for a construction project on Interstate 80 (I-80) in Buffalo County between Odessa and Kearney.

“The $21 million INFRA grant will help maximize state funds to get this project going in an area with vital manufacturing and agricultural industries,” said Gov. Pillen. “I-80 is the busiest freight corridor in Nebraska, and freight traffic is only going up. When this project is completed, it will bolster our economy in the central part of the state by helping ensure our transportation system provides good, ample access to major cities and distribution centers.”

The award to the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) follows positive and productive interactions with Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the U.S. Department of Transportation. In September, Gov. Pillen met with Sec. Buttigieg to discuss the need for additional federal dollars to complete transportation projects in Nebraska. Then, Lt. Governor Joe Kelly joined the Secretary in Grand Island, highlighting the impact of more than $15 million in railroad funding for the state.

I-80 is a main freight corridor, with the section in Buffalo County supporting over 22,000 vehicles a day, 38% of which are heavy trucks. By 2045, it’s anticipated the section will see a 39% increase in daily traffic volume, making the replacement project crucial to the area’s freight economy.

This Odessa to Kearney project is estimated to cost $35.3 million, with the remaining 40 percent of the project being funded by a 50/50 split between National Highway Performance Program funding through the Federal Highway Administration and state transportation funds. It will entail the complete removal of nine miles of existing pavement and replacement with a new, durable concrete surface and shoulders, designed to withstand heavy traffic loads and extreme weather conditions. The project will also include the removal and replacement of a rural two-lane bridge over I-80, needed for local connectivity and farm-to-market accessibility. Construction is anticipated to begin in spring of 2026 and be completed by the end of 2027.

“This grant award is a big win for Nebraska,” said Vicki Kramer, NDOT Director. “It’s part of the state’s larger efforts to bring more discretionary money to support agricultural and manufacturing economies by investing in our infrastructure. Nebraska’s interstate and highway systems are essential to the vitality and wellbeing of our rural communities’ economies.”

Currently, the state highway system carries 63% of all vehicle miles traveled in the state and 83% of heavy truck traffic. It is projected that by 2045, Nebraska’s transportation system will carry more than 623 million tons of freight annually, valued at $404 billion.

“Nebraska currently ranks 49th in going after federal funding,” emphasized Gov. Pillen. “As a state, we need to be more competitive and capitalize on federal dollars with no strings attached, especially when it comes to funding projects that support Nebraska’s infrastructure and its growth.”