Briefly

More miles completed on Panhandle’s Heartland Expressway

By: - October 18, 2022 10:42 am
Heartland Expressway

From left, Alliance Mayor Mike Dafney, Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Transportation Director John Selmer celebrate completion of a new segment of the Heartland Expressway. (Courtesy of the Governor’s Office)

LINCOLN — Dignitaries gathered Monday to celebrate completion of an additional 14 miles of four-lane, divided freeway on the Heartland Expressway in Nebraska’s Panhandle.

The new four-lane portion extends from Nebraska Highway Link 62A,  east of Minatare, to Alliance.

Increased revenue from the Build Nebraska Act and the Transportation Innovation Act enabled the Nebraska Department of Transportation to extend the expressway.

Federal grant helped

The NDOT also received an $18.3 million grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.

The Heartland Expressway, a federally designated, high-priority corridor, will eventually provide multilane, divided highway access from Rapid City, South Dakota, to Denver, via Alliance, Scottsbluff, Kimball and Brush, Colorado.

$32 million project

Gov. Pete Ricketts, who attended Monday’s event, said the expressway will significantly increase the flow of freight from America’s border with Canada all the way to ports along the Gulf of Mexico.

IHC-Scott Inc. of Centennial, Colorado, was awarded the $32 million contract to complete the 14-mile segment of the Heartland Expressway.

Alliance Mayor Mike Dafney said the expressway has been long awaited by Panhandle residents.

“Our communities and our organizations are committed to this project and its ability to meet transportation needs for Nebraskans in the region for years to come,” he said.

Ricketts opposed gas tax hike

The Build Nebraska Act of 2011 earmarked 1/4th of 1% of the state’s income taxes to highway construction, while the Transportation Innovation Act of 2015 eventually increased the state’s gas tax by 6 cents a gallon.

Ricketts opposed the gas tax hike, saying Nebraskans want tax relief, and he has targeted some state senators for election defeat because they supported it. The gas tax increase was expected to generate an additional $76 million a year to accelerate highway improvements.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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