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Mayor finds reasons to be encouraged about Highway 275 project

January 5, 2019

Amid disappointments and delays, there is positive news regarding the Highway 275 expressway project.

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said the Nebraska Department of Transportation would soon be accepting “Requests for Qualifications” for design and environmental work on the western portion of Highway 275 — Norfolk to West Point. A Jan. 14 deadline has been set for companies seeking to provide the state with those professional services.

“This is big news,” Moenning said in a guest column published in its entirety on today’s Commentary page in the Daily News.

That’s because it’s an indication that the state is continuing to want to move forward on Highway 275 even though the project has been hampered by delays, Moenning said.

The most recent delay pertained to the Scribner to West Point segment that was designated as Nebraska’s first design-build road project with construction scheduled for this year.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision last year that a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be required because of more than 100 acres of wetlands along the highway segment. The work by the Corps could take up to two years to complete before the start of any construction.

Moenning said he and Dirk Petersen, chairman of the 4 Lanes 4 Nebraska coalition, recently met with Kyle Schneweis, the director of the state transportation department, to continue to push for forward momentum on Highway 275.

Moenning said Schneweis reaffirmed the state’s commitment to the project and to working with Corps officials to find aggressive and innovative ways to streamline the delivery process.

“We were assured funding for the Scribner to West Point segment will remain available and progress on the project seen in 2019,” he said.

In the coming year, for example, the transportation department will select a design-build contractor and begin the right-of-way process. Additionally, state engineers are working to satisfy the Corps’ EIS requirement while laying groundwork to begin construction at the earliest date possible.

The most encouraging news, however, was that Schneweis said the state was going to start identifying consultants for design and environmental work on the western portion of Highway 275 — Norfolk to West Point.

That means, Moenning said, the state will be “getting a start there while working through the environmental analysis on the eastern half.”

Although construction plans for Highway 275 are not unfolding as initially designed, “we can be confident that it is unfolding nevertheless — and that the project will move forward as long as citizens stay engaged and political leadership remains committed to finishing the job,” Moenning said.

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Want to learn more?

Josh Moenning’s complete letter to the Daily News can be found on page 4 of today’s edition of the newspaper.

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