September 1, 2015

Nebraska State Patrol’s I-80 Challenge starts Friday

It will be a busy weekend for Nebraska law enforcement. Nebraska State Patrol spokesperson Deb Collins says as of Wednesday morning there have been 149 traffic fatalities so far this year on Nebraska roads, up from 143 at this time one year ago. She says they are conducting a special three day enforcement to reduce traffic related deaths.

Collins says, “We will be doing our I-80 Challenge which is Friday through Sunday. We are working with all the law enforcement along Interstate 80 and I-35, hoping for zero fatalities these three days.

Collins says motorists are asked to help by not driving distracted, wearing seatbelts, following safety laws and watching out for other drivers.

Collins reminds drivers the “You Drink, You Drive, You Lose” special enforcement is in progress and runs through Labor Day.

Some aren’t sold on Senate transportation measure

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry on the screen at the annual legislative summit at the Air & Space Museum in Ashland.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry on the screen at the annual legislative summit at the Air & Space Museum in Ashland.

Skepticism is being expressed about the six-year, $350 billion highway bill passed by the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer brought Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to Nebraska to promote the transportation measure approved by the Senate just prior to Congress leaving Washington for its August break. The House balked and Congress approved a three-month, $8 billion extension of current highway funding to give time for the two chambers to negotiate.

Fischer serves as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.

Foxx pointed out during his visit that Congress has approved 34 extensions to highway funding since 2009 and said he sees the Senate action as an encouraging sign that a long-term transportation bill is possible.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse agrees Congress needs to approve a long-term transportation bill, but he worries about the financing attached to the Senate bill, contending that though supporters call it a six-year bill, it has guaranteed funding only for the first three years.

“There are a number of funding mechanism inside this three-year bill that I think would constitute accounting gimmicks. So, I wish the bill were better,” Sasse tells Nebraska
Radio Network. “It will be interesting to see what comes out of the House and hopefully we can improve upon it when the final bill comes to both houses of Congress.”

Sasse says he supports the long-term highway infrastructure component of the bill, just not the funding of it.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says there is wide-spread agreement that a new transportation measure is needed.

“The issue is not whether or not we need a long-term highway bill and if Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on that, because we all do. The issue is the payment for it,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, as a part of a longer term tax reform measure which may be on the horizon that could include components that would become the funding stream for a highway bill.”

Fortenberry says the House will work on its own measure.

“The disposition of the House, as I’ve heard it from the Speaker, is to let the chairman of the House committee write his own bill and then I would think there might be some attempt to reconcile the Senate and House bills,” Fortenberry says.

Congressman Brad Ashford says Congress needs to look long term.

“We need to get beyond the patches. I still have hope that we can come up with a bill that will utilize assets situated in off-shore, bring them back, $165 billion, and apply those dollars for a six-year plan for roads,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It has to happen. I think there is an appetite for it.”

Transportation Sec. Foxx sees progress in road funding (AUDIO)

Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx speaks with reporters during his visit to Nebraska.

Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx speaks with reporters during his visit to Nebraska.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx promoted a six-year transportation bill passed by the Senate during his visit to Nebraska.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer hosted Secretary Foxx fresh off Senate passage of a six-year, $350 billion transportation bill.

“We’re making a commitment that we’re done with these short-term patches going forward,” Fischer stated during a news conference at Frontier Harley Davidson in Lincoln. “We need to get certainty back into our infrastructure and into our highway funding system.”

Foxx pointed out that Congress has approved 34 extensions to highway funding since 2009 and said he sees the Senate action as an encouraging sign that a long-term transportation bill is possible.

Though the bill goes a long way to providing certainty in transportation funding, it still falls short, according to Foxx.

Transportation Sec. Foxx shares a laugh with Sen. Deb Fischer after the news conference.

Transportation Sec. Foxx shares a laugh with Sen. Deb Fischer after the news conference.

“There’s a minimal level of funding the transportation system needs to maintain itself. And, at current funding levels, we’re still undershooting the target,” Foxx said.

Foxx acknowledged the House has yet to act, but says just to get a bill through the Senate is a big step. A temporary extension of current transportation funding has been passed to give Senate and House negotiators time to work on a long-term agreement.

Congress is on its August break. It returns to Washington next month.

The Senate bill provides money for road and bridge construction throughout the country as well as money for transit, railroad, and auto safety programs.

Prior to the news conference, Fischer and Foxx held a roundtable discussion at the University of Nebraska and visited the site of the Diverging Diamond Interchange Highway project.

Fischer serves as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Eppley Airfield adding non-stop flights

Those flying out of Eppley Airfield in Omaha will soon have more options.   World Group’s Executive Vice President of Marketing Jeff Beals says airlines have added more non-stop flights in and out of Eppley which is good for business.

On Monday, Allegiant announced they will add non-stop flights from Omaha to Orlando on November 5th. This follows an announcement that Alaska Airlines will offer a non-stop flight from Omaha to Portland in February.

Southwest Airlines also made a big announcement last week they are adding a non-stop service to Dallas and Tuesday they announced direct flights to Washington DC will start in March of 2016.

Beals says the additions are critically important for business development and recruitment of companies to Nebraska.

Corn growers aim to rebrand gas pumps nationwide

PrintNebraska and Iowa, the nation’s two largest ethanol-producing states, are launching a joint effort to “rebrand” gasoline pumps nationwide with stickers promoting the American Ethanol brand.

Kelly Brunkhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, says the project stems from the past five years of partnership with NASCAR and the pro stock car racing circuit’s use of E-15 fuel.

“This American Ethanol brand has really started to stand out as a very recognizable brand within NASCAR,” Brunkhorst says. “As states work in partnership with NASCAR through this, we thought this was a great opportunity to continue that brand awareness, now on pumps.”

The plan is for stickers with the red, white, blue and green logo to be placed on gas pumps nationwide that offer the ethanol blends.

Brunkhorst says this initiative will help provide consumers with a consistent experience at the pumps, whether they choose E-10, E-15, E-30 or E-85.

“As consumers pull up to the pump, they can see that American Ethanol brand and that American Ethanol label and understand the value it brings to them,” he says. “As they travel across the United States, they’ll be able to consistently see this label on blends, especially in states that require labeling such as Nebraska and Iowa, and they’ll know the consistency of a home-grown, renewable-based biofuel that’s grown right here in Nebraska and Iowa.”

Brunkhorst says the stickers are already going out to hundreds of retailers.

“For those retailers who haven’t submitted their requests for those new, updated American Ethanol labels, they can just go to NebraskaCorn.org,” he says, “and there’s a form they can fill out and submit to us and we’ll get them sent out.”

Iowa is the nation’s leading ethanol maker, producing 3.8 billion gallons a year, while Nebraska is second with more than two-billion gallons a year. Iowa has 42 ethanol plants and Nebraska has 24.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton