By Governor Dave Heineman
With the good weather of the summer travel season, you may have noticed increased road construction. Hundreds of improvement projects are underway and more are scheduled to begin yet this summer. The additional road construction is a good reminder that it’s critical to pay attention to road and construction signs, and to be aware work crews are out on our roads.
We will celebrate the completion of some popular highway improvement projects over the next few months. This week, the US-77 Bridge south of Fremont opened to four new lanes of traffic over the Platte River. The Kearney Bypass Interchange will open in August and a new Rulo bridge will open in early September. A new bridge across the Loup River south of Fullerton will open in the middle of September. Interstate 80 from Lincoln S. 56th Street east should reach completion to Waverly in November. Then we’ll have six lanes to handle the traffic from Omaha to Lincoln.
Recently, we also released the latest information on plans for new projects across the state. The Nebraska Department of Roads plans to use highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.
The 2014 State Highway System Program shows $431 million in projects that are funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. The Local System Program for city streets and county roads totals $312 million and is funded with state, federal and local highway user revenues.
Additionally, this is the first year that the Build Nebraska Act funds will be used in our state. Projects including the Wahoo Bypass, the Kearney Bypass and additional lanes on I-80 in Omaha will aim to ease traffic congestion in the metro areas. Without these funds, we would not have been able to afford these capital improvement projects.
A total of 139 new projects are planned on the State Highway System during fiscal year 2014. Projects throughout the state range in size from small intersection improvements involving lighting and traffic signals to pavement and bridge preservation projects such as joint and crack sealing and bridge repair to large resurfacing and reconstruction projects.
One of the larger projects is a new viaduct over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks south of Hershey that will eliminate up to six hours a day of waiting for train traffic. The removal of certain railroad crossings will ensure the safety of that community.
Additional projects include six miles of asphalt resurfacing and bridge improvements between Danbury and Lebanon in Red Willow County; almost ten miles of asphalt resurfacing and bridge repair on Nebraska Highway 12 east of Niobrara; replacing the concrete pavement on over six miles of Interstate 80 in Cheyenne County; and 13 miles of asphalt resurfacing and bridge repair on Nebraska Highway 12 east of Valentine.
Nebraska is on the move and we want to continue this momentum, ensuring a safe and vital future. Whether you’re traveling a highway, an interstate or making a routine drive, it is essential that you wear your seatbelt or helmet, take extra caution in construction zones, move over for emergency personnel, and obey the posted speed limits to ensure your own safety and that of others.
Additionally, in an effort to increase safety on Nebraska’s roads, I announced this week the availability of a new program to help parents and guardians of teen drivers. The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program is designed to optimize the 50 hours of supervised driving required for Nebraska teens and offers step-by-step instructions for parents to use when teaching their teens to drive. Parents and guardians of teens, play a critical role in helping them develop the habits and skills necessary to be safe and responsible drivers. Safe teen drivers will keep our roads safer, and it will protect one of Nebraska’s greatest resources – our teenagers.