Transportation officials in Nebraska have told lawmakers
they are considering delaying work on expressway projects and slowing progress
on widening Interstate 80 to six lanes between Lincoln and Omaha because of
funding concerns. About 20 projects that were in line for funding during the
current fiscal year already have been postponed.
John Craig, director of the Nebraska Roads Department, said
the agency projects a growing gap between revenue and the state's road-building
plan. It is estimated that during the next two decades the gap will average
$285 million annually, the Omaha
To cope with the funding gap, department officials are reviewing
the criteria used to determine which road projects get done and in what order
they're completed. Currently, the state decides highway projects based on such
factors as traffic, safety issues, national standards and road conditions.
The proposed changes would place top priority on maintaining
existing roadways. At the same time, several road construction or widening
projects would be put on the back burner or dropped entirely, the World-Herald reported.
The changes are needed because of an expected 15 percent
drop in funding during the next two fiscal years, Craig said. He said the
funding level will fall from $390 million last fiscal year to $330 million in
fiscal year 2008.
Fewer funds for roads are blamed on a dip in fuel tax
revenue as consumers try to conserve fuel. Sales tax collections from motor
vehicle sales also are down.
Meanwhile, road construction and maintenance costs are on
the rise because of higher prices for oil, steel and concrete.
Craig said the growing popularity of entering into
public-private partnerships to get needed road work completed isn't likely to
aid the state. He cited the state's low population, which makes any