Highway 35 taking back seat to 275 expressway
If you’ve been waiting for the Department of Roads to make any efforts on a possible expressway of Highway 35 between Norfolk and South Sioux City, your wait is about to get a little longer.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Wayne City Council, city officials discussed a recent series of regional meetings held by the Nebraska Department of Roads, geared toward receiving input on how to distribute road construction funds under the Build Nebraska Act.
City administrator Lowell Johnson, Wayne street superintendent Joel Hansen, Wayne Area Chamber executive director Wes Blecke and Steve Rames of McLaury Engineering reported to the council on what they learned from the recent regional meetings, and one constant was gleaned from the meetings – Highway 35 isn’t on anybody’s radar right now.
“The consensus from the different groups, based on public feedback, was that finishing the (Highway) 275 expressway from Norfolk to Omaha was the top priority,” Hansen said.
Those in attendance were split up into groups that looked at several main highways in northeast Nebraska, including Highways 15, 35, 275 and 81, with economic benefits factoring in the discussion. Groups were asked to prioritize projects with spending estimates of $200 million and $500 million to determine which projects they felt were most important to complete at this time, and Highway 275 was by far the most popular choice.
Hansen said he was the only one in his group who chose Highway 35, and Blecke said three people in his group voted for the highway running through Wayne County between Norfolk and South Sioux City.
“Everybody was putting their dots on 275, so I put mine on 35 and 15,” Rames joked.
Hansen said there was considerable discussion about the inclusion of bypasses along Highway 275, particularly in communities like West Point, whose mayor was in Rames’ group.
“We had the West Point mayor in our group, and their view was that we really didn’t need to spend the additional money to bypass around West Point, that it was more important to get the expressway finished,” Rames said.
Hansen said the hearing he attended had a significant Norfolk influence, with about 50 Nucor employees in attendance.
“A lot of the people who were there were Nucor employees and others from around Northeast Nebraska, so (35 and 15) didn’t get a lot of play,” Hansen said, noting that there was also discussion about completing the four-lane expressway on Highway 81 between Norfolk and Yankton and also between Columbus and York.
Blecke said that everybody in attendance agreed that, with the number of projects that are in various states of completion, they would just like to see one project finished.
“I think we’re tired of seeing segments all over the place where you have expressways in different places,” he said. “I think that if we get 275 completed, there might be a push from those supporting that to help us out with Highway 35.”
Blecke added that getting the 275 expressway completed would help him be able to better market Wayne to businesses looking to move to town.
“Getting (275) completed, we could market ourselves as being 15 miles from a four-lane (expressway), rather than 50 miles from (Interstate 29),” he said.
The Department of Roads is taking public comment through Friday, July 29, but it was clear to Councilman Cale Giese that Norfolk has a heavy influence on where money will be spent in this part of the state.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it sure sounds like Norfolk has a really squeaky wheel,” Giese said.
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