It's a project decades in the making for Northeast Nebraska.
"That's a very welcome development for all the communities along the Highway 275 corridor."
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and community leaders across northeast Nebraska met in West Point Wednesday for the official start of the Highway 275 expansion project.
"It's a project very long time in coming," said Gov. Ricketts. "It was assisted by the Transportation Innovation Act we passed a few years ago, and now we're finally ready to start doing the construction work that we're doing all the planning for, getting environmental permits and all that sort of thing."
The initial expansion, transitioning 275 from two lanes to four from Omaha to Norfolk, was first announced in the 80s with a completion date projected for 2003, but environmental issues, primarily with the Elkhorn River, delayed its approval and construction for decades.
"We've lost out frankly, on a lot of economic development, growth opportunities by not having the right infrastructure in place," said Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning, who has been a supporter of the project even before being elected mayor. "And now, with the coming years ahead, and the development of this project, we hope that we can catch up having the right infrastructure in place to compete."
Governor Ricketts says this project will bring a big boost to the northeast Nebraska economy.
"Going from a two-lane to a four-lane will help facilitate that improving safety, which is important for companies that are working along the corridor, but also just allowing for more volume of traffic so that companies can expand," Ricketts said after the announcement, saying it'll allow companies already along the corridor to expand and bring in more jobs and new ones to come in and find a home in Northeast Nebraska.
The expansion isn't just for economic development, but safety, too. The current stretch of road can be dangerous for drivers.
"We've already seen very tragic loss of life again this season," Moenning said. "275 is a very dangerous outdated corridor and should have been expanded more than two decades ago."
The Nebraska DOT says this project shouldn't interrupt the traffic flow on 275 during construction.
"We'll try and keep traffic moving on that two-lane that's currently in existence right now while we build the other one," said Jeni Compana with the Nebraska Dept. of Transportation. "Then eventually we'll shift traffic to the other side while we work on the existing side to make sure that that's built up to last with the other side as well."
Decades after its initial announcement, communities along the 275 corridor are more than ready for this expansion to begin.
"There has been a lot of clamoring for this project... for decades," Moenning said. "Again, there was a promise made that it would get started sometime between 1988 and finished by 2003. Obviously, that deadline came and went. And so there's been a lot of frustration that we haven't seen the kind of progress that is needed to actually finish the job here."
This phase of the reconstruction will run from Scribner to just outside West Point. That's a total of about 18 miles. Governor Ricketts says they hope to have the full project complete by 2028.
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