Governor, Committee Chairman Propose Infrastructure Bank for Nebraska Projects

AASHTO Journal, 15 January 2016

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Dan Smith, chairman of the Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, proposed creating a transportation infrastructure bank to speed up road construction projects, repair county bridges and promote economic growth.

Their announcement said Ricketts will make the infrastructure bank one of his legislative initiatives for the 2016 legislative session.

Nebraska.jpgThe plan calls for that bank to be administered by the Nebraska Department of Roads, to help the state accelerate its roads construction agenda and provide matching funds to counties to expedite bridge repairs. It would also fund transportation projects that support industry expansion as well as attract businesses to Nebraska.

Ricketts said the infrastructure bank idea “continues Nebraska’s pay-as-you-go practice for roads.” He also said its spending would spur economic development. “Targeted investments in our transportation system through prioritized spending will help our state continue to grow.”

The plan calls for the state to capitalize it by phasing in transfers of up to $150 million of Nebraska cash reserves.

NDOR Director Kyle Schneweis told reporters that an influx of money would speed up completion of road and bridge projects, which would save money, the Nebraska Radio Network reported.

“This proposal will save us time and will save us money and it’s going to help us better support the economy in the state,” Schneweis said at a news conference in the governor’s hearing room at the Capitol.

The plan would fund three programs through the infrastructure bank:

– An accelerated state highway capital improvement program “to provide the earliest possible mobility, freight, and safety benefits to the state by fast-tracking highway construction projects.”
– A county bridge match program to plow more money into repair and replacement of deficient bridges in the county road system, with the NDOR to determine the matching funds criteria.
– An economic opportunity program that would support new businesses and expansions by connecting them to Nebraska’s transportation network. The NDOR would administer that program in consultation with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

The Ricketts-Smith plan also authorizes the NDOR to use a design-build process to speed-up Nebraska’s most expensive and complex roads construction projects, which could cut two to four years off the time needed to complete a project compared with traditional bidding.

Smith and his committee has held a series of hearings across the state on road priorities. “As we traveled the state, the committee heard loud and clear the importance of infrastructure and the need to expedite the construction and repair of critical roads and bridges,” he said. “This collaborative effort is a clear and direct response to the concerns we heard.”

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