Legislation signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts creates a new Department of Transportation and should speed up road construction projects.
“Finally, at long last, we’ll have a Department of Transportation in our state,” says Kyle Schneweis, now the state Transportation Director. “This will allow us to be more strategic in our work. Our mission is to enable the safe and effective movement of people and goods regardless of the mode of transportation that they use. And, so, by becoming a DOT, we will be able to further that mission. But, there’s a practical reason to. It’s going to save us money.”
LB 339, sponsored by Transportation Committee chair Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, combines the Department of Aeronautics with the Department of Roads, creating the Department of Transportation in which Aeronautics will become a division. The move was a top priority of Gov. Ricketts.
Another piece of legislation, LB 271 sponsored by Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, authorizes the Nebraska Department of Transportation to enter into an agreement with the United States Department of Transportation to conduct the required environmental studies of proposed road and bridge construction projects, eliminating duplicate federal and state studies.
Schneweis says Texas has adopted the approach and found the change cut the time to complete road and bridge projects in half. Schneweis says he’s not sure Nebraska will save that much time on major road and bridge projects, which typically take two years to complete.
“So, Texas is an example of something for us to strive for,” Schneweis tells reporters. “Like I said, our analysis indicates (savings of) three months to a year. I was very energized by those remarks from the Texas folks, though.”
Schneweis says trimming that much time off of construction projects would results in millions of savings.