Transportation and Telecommunications

East beltway project proposed

The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard testimony Feb. 28 on a bill that would fund planning of a new beltway project in Lancaster County.

Sen. Beau Ballard
Sen. Beau Ballard

LB721, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Beau Ballard, would appropriate $25 million in general funds in fiscal year 2023-24 to the state Department of Transportation to begin planning for the Lincoln East Beltway project. Planning would include designing the roadway and structures for the beltway, cost estimations, environmental studies and evaluation documents and a projected schedule for the project’s completion.

Ballard said the plan to develop the beltway already has been approved according to federal and state regulations, but requires funding to carry out the construction.

“The East Beltway is an important part of Lincoln’s future transportation network,” Ballard said. “It provides benefits to the environment, property, business owners and the traveling public.”

Lancaster County Commissioner Christa Yoakum testified in support of the bill. The East Beltway is the final portion of the expressway system around the city of Lincoln, she said, and is the last “piece of the puzzle” to fully realizing the benefits of easy regional interconnectivity.

“Effective transportation infrastructure is vital to keeping Nebraska economically competitive and physical transportation infrastructure is an integral part of the supply chain that supports our continued local, regional and statewide growth within the wider global economy,” Yoakum said.

Abbey Pascoe, president of the Waverly City Council, also spoke in favor. The beltway project is important for several reasons, Pascoe said, and safety is one of the top priorities. Traffic on 148th St. in Waverly continues to grow as new drivers, school buses and parents use it for traveling to school and activities, she said, and the beltway could help.

“With the increasing amount of traffic on [that] stretch of shoulderless county roads, it is an important safety issue for people in and around our community,” Pascoe said. “This issue will only continue to get more significant as the traffic counts climb on 148th St.”

No one testified in opposition to LB721 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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