- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A new study says completing a road expansion project between Omaha and Norfolk that’s more than a decade behind schedule could save lives and millions of dollars.

Creighton economics professor Ernie Goss, who conducted the study, said Wednesday that expanding a 47-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 275 from two to four lanes would save the state more than $145 million per year. He said construction of the project alone would create over 1,000 jobs.

Expanding the road would also increase safety, reduce commute times, and stimulate growth in the manufacturing, metals production and cattle operations along the corridor, Goss said.

“You’ve got a steel mill in Norfolk; you’ve got heavy manufacturing throughout the corridor; you’ve got the largest cattle feeding area in the country, and it’s all connected with a two-lane 1940’s highway, and it’s inefficient,” said research associate Jeffrey Milewski, who worked on the study with Goss.

The project would cost $186 million in construction and is a segment of about 100 uncompleted miles of Nebraska’s 1988 planned expressway system.

4 Lanes 4 Nebraska, a group of banking, agriculture and manufacturing business leaders, commissioned the study.

“We want to press the case that the state needs to fulfill its obligation to completing the expressway system and, once again, embrace a big-picture roads plan for the benefit of the entire state,” executive director Josh Moenning said.

Moenning said Highway 275 had been scheduled to be completed in 2003, but does not currently qualify for the sales tax percentage designated to other high-priority highway projects. The study suggested funding the construction through pass-through tolls or state-issued bonds, but those methods have so far lacked legislative and executive support in Nebraska.

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