By Governor Pete Ricketts
March 7, 2016
The Governor’s official photo is available here.
Infrastructure is one of the key ways state government helps facilitate life for Nebraskans. Over the past few years, I have traveled a lot of our highways and roadways. From these travels, I can attest that Nebraska has great roads. The numbers confirm my experience. The Reason Foundation’s Highway Report ranks Nebraska second out of all states for highway performance and cost-effectiveness.
There’s no doubt we have great roads, but there are still important challenges our state must address to ensure we build the 21st-century infrastructure Nebraska families need to get to work, take their kids to school, travel for business, and Grow Nebraska.
To address some of our infrastructure needs this legislative session, I have partnered with senators to create the Transportation Innovation Act (TIA). This act will create a fund which has three components: First it designates resources to accelerate the completion of our state’s expressway system, a system of roads first envisioned in 1988 to connect our state’s communities. Second, it targets funding to help Nebraska counties address necessary bridge repairs. Third, it launches a new and innovative program to help facilitate infrastructure projects that spur economic growth in our communities.
The fund will initially be started by utilizing money from the state’s cash reserve. This infrastructure fund will then be replenished with unprogrammed dollars from the Nebraska Department of Roads. This initiative will be launched utilizing existing sources of revenue.
The TIA does not only target resources for completing Nebraska’s expressway system, but it also creates new tools to make road construction more effective. Right now, Nebraska utilizes a design-bid-build process that takes 7-12 years to complete projects from start to finish. By moving towards a design-build process for expressway construction, we will be able to cut out steps which take years to complete, and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete roads by 2-4 years. Building infrastructure in a timely manner is critical to growing our largest industries and encouraging businesses to create good-paying jobs for hard-working Nebraskans like you.
Recently, the Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the TIA, which was introduced as LB960 by Senator Jim Smith at my request and prioritized by Senator Lydia Brasch. At the hearing, numerous Nebraskans ranging from local elected officials to industry partners expressed support for this proposal. Nebraskans from across the state supported the legislation’s goal to complete the state’s expressway system by 2033. Local county government representatives testified about the importance of making progress in repairing our state’s bridges. Economic development leaders described the importance of having targeted programming for attracting and retaining new businesses.
The Transportation Innovation Act still has several steps in the legislative process before it can reach my desk for approval. My administration needs your help contacting your senator to encourage them to support this initiative. This week, the Appropriations Committee voted to approve a compromise agreement that increases the amount of funding for this program. Very shortly, we hope the proposal will be considered by the entire Legislature. If you want to see additional resources dedicated to expressway construction, bridge repair, and infrastructure for economic development, please consider contacting your senator. You can find their contact information by visiting www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.