Transportation infrastructure bank fund advances

A proposal to create a transportation infrastructure bank to fund new roads and bridges advanced from general file March 15.

As introduced by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, LB960 would create a transportation infrastructure bank funded with $150 million from the state’s cash reserve and up to $150 million of state motor fuel tax over the next seven years.

An Appropriations Committee amendment, adopted 38-0, replaced the bill and would create an infrastructure bank fund composed of three programs overseen by the state Department of Roads. The first would accelerate capital improvement projects, including the state’s expressway system and other high-priority roads projects. Another program would provide funds to repair and replace deficient county bridges and the third would finance improvements to the state’s transportation infrastructure that would support new and expanding businesses.

The bank fund would receive a one-time transfer of $50 million from the state’s cash reserve in July 2016. More than $400 million in state motor fuel tax generated between July 2016 and June 2033 also would be directed to the fund.

Smith said the proposal would be a major step toward fixing many of the state’s roads and bridges that have fallen into disrepair. The measure also would speed completion of the state’s expressway system, which has been under construction for nearly 30 years, he said.

The bill also would authorize the department to hire a construction manager who would advise the department on project scheduling and enter into contracts in which a single contractor designs and builds a project.

“This alternative contracting method will allow for large-scale projects to be delivered in a more efficient manner, helping to stretch those state dollars farther,” Smith said.

Up to $40 million would be used for the county bridge match program, which would terminate in 2023. Up to $20 million would be used for the economic development program and a project would need to demonstrate its positive economic impact before it is approved. Any funds remaining on June 30, 2033, would be transferred to the state’s cash reserve.

Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln supported the proposal, saying that the large transfer from the state’s cash reserve is justified by transportation infrastructure’s key role in Nebraska’s economic development.

“I think it’s important to recognize that this is an investment in our future economy,” Bolz said.

Sen. John Stinner of Gering agreed, saying the infusion of funds is necessary to complete long-delayed sections of the state’s expressway system, which is critical to economic development in many rural areas.

“I am not sure anything we do as legislators can be any more impactful on our economy both in the short and long term than expressway construction and completion,” he said.

Senators voted 43-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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