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grant drawing

PLATTSMOUTH – The long-anticipated widening project on U.S. Highway 75 between Plattsmouth and Murray may have gotten on the fast lane.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently approved a $20 million grant to help fund that project that will widen that nearly seven-mile stretch from two to four lanes, plus other improvements.

“It’s great news for the whole area,” said Plattsmouth Mayor R. Paul Lambert.

The approval was announced on Thursday through the office of U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

“Since the fall of 2017, I’ve been advocating for this investment because it will improve road safety and connectivity between our communities,” Fischer said through her office. “I’m thankful to (Transportation) Secretary Chao for her support of this important infrastructure project for Nebraska.”

The funds come from the transportation department’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, Grant program for funding projects considered to have significant local or regional impact.

It was a competitive grant, according to Gov. Pete Ricketts, who was obviously pleased with the announcement.

“This announcement builds on Nebraska’s historic commitment to building the 21st Century infrastructure we need to grow our state,” Ricketts said through his office. “Along with our Transportation Innovation Act, this grant will help us fulfill the vision for expanding our state’s expressway system. I am pleased that the Trump Administration continues to support the innovative work of the Nebraska Department of Transportation to modernize our infrastructure by approving this grant application.”

As part of the grant application, letters of support were submitted from federal, state and local officials/agencies that included the governor, Fischer, U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, State Sen. Rob Clements, State Sen. Curt Friesen, the Cass County Board of Commissioners, the Cass County Economic Development Council, Cass County Tourism, the Omaha Public Power District, Southeast Community College, and the City of Plattsmouth.

City officials learned on Tuesday there was an increased chance of receiving this grant, according to City Administrator Erv Portis.

“It’s certainly good news,” he said.

The proposed project would improve approximately 6.83 miles of the existing U.S. 34/U.S. 75 highway to a four-lane expressway, including a raised 22-foot-wide median. The project would also include bridge replacement and the replacement of guardrails, and other improvements.

According to the NDOT, plans to improve U.S. 75 had their roots in the 1970s when regional leaders determined that a four-lane freeway was needed to optimize the corridor between Omaha and Nebraska City. In 1988, state lawmakers approved development of an expressway system that includes U.S. 75. Lawmakers in 2011 passed the Build Nebraska Act, or BNA, to expand that system and federally designated high-priority corridors, plus preserve the state’s existing transportation system.

The Murray to Plattsmouth Project is funded for construction under the first 10 years of the BNA and was scheduled to begin between 2020 and 2023. However, the NDOT is evaluating potential impacts to the schedule due to this grant, according to the office of Director Kyle Schneweis. The expansion of U.S 75 generally, and the Murray-to-Plattsmouth segment specifically, addresses the fact that in the next 20 years, vehicle counts in the area are expected to increase by more than 25 percent, Schneweis said.

In addition, the roadwork promotes economic opportunities and enhances roadway safety.

“The expansion of U.S. 75 to a four-lane expressway will reduce congestion, improve reliability of the transportation system, promote economic development and expand mobility on a key regional corridor,” he said.

Lambert agreed on the positive economic development this project should bring.

“It will help us tremendously,” he said.

Estimated total cost is $43.1 million.

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