The Nebraska Department of Roads is launching a fund-matching program that offers counties across the state up to $40-million to repair or replace bridges.
Larry Dix, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, says the County Bridge Match Program is being phased in gradually.
Dix says, “The good part about it is, this first go around, the first opening of ideas for the Department of Roads to consider, at least that’ll give the counties an idea of what the Department of Roads is looking for and how they’re scoring those requests.”
Nebraska ranks 16th in the nation for total number of bridges with more than 15,000 of them and most of those, more than 11,000, are county bridges.
On the county system, more than 800 bridges are functionally obsolete and 21-hundred are structurally deficient.
The DOR says 38% of county bridges are more than 50 years old and 185 of Nebraska’s county bridges are closed.
County officials from across Nebraska met recently in Kearney. In addition to bridges, Dix says another primary concern among county leaders is technology, especially tied to 911 call centers.
“There’s only so much money to pay to upgrade that technology,” Dix says, “so, it will be one of those things where counties do have to work together and see if they can jointly go together and certainly in parts of the state that may be looking at a 911 center not necessarily inside our state borders.”
As state lawmakers are facing a potential two-year budget shortfall exceeding one-billion dollars, Dix says county leaders will be very watchful of actions in the Unicameral.
“Whenever the legislature is strapped for funds, we’re always very cautious of unfunded mandates being passed down, services being passed down to the local level,” he says.
Dix says the county leaders are always involved in the annual property tax discussions.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton