It’s very much a coincidence that Gov. Dave Heineman chose to highlight some of the Nebraska Department of Roads (DOR) projects in his weekly column the same week that we offer our thoughts on Highway 275. The governor’s comments are printed elsewhere on this page.
We don’t know what’s in store for Highway 275, from the end of the 4-lane divided highway west of Norfolk to where it reconnects with the 4-lane divided highway near Hooper, but we do know that something needs to be in store for it soon. And well before 2023, which is the earliest any expressway project might be scheduled, according to the DOR. An expressway is a divided 4-lane highway with limited access.
The good news is that communities along Highway 275 are working together to call attention to needed improvements on that highway. Officials from those cities and villages met last Tuesday night in Norfolk (see last week’s West Point News for story) to begin seeking information that will help them present their case to the State Highway Commission.
Some of the information shared at that meeting was enlightening. For example, we learned that a highway might not need to carry a certain number of vehicles each day for it to meet expressway criteria. That’s different from information shared at expressway meetings we’ve attended over the years. Not too many years ago, in fact, information shared was that the state had raised the vehicle count required for expressway status to a minimum of 10,000 per day from the previous minimum of 6,500 per day.
The DOR’s 20-year projection for Highway 275, from Norfolk to Fremont, is a traffic count of about 8,000 vehicles per day. If indeed there is a minimum standard, and if it is 10,000 per day, then it’s logical to wonder if Highway 275 still qualifies for expressway status. If not, then it’s time to consider alternatives.
Some of what was shared last week was the same information we have heard before — that if the remainder of that particular stretch of highway does meet expressway criteria, and if work ever begins, that route will need to bypass the communities of West Point, Wisner, Beemer and Scribner. That’s another reason to consider alternatives, because the cost of the bypasses is probably enough to keep that expressway project from ever making the DOR’s “to do” list.
With “rural economic development” being the catchphrase of several state agencies these days, another question to ask is, “Is sending 6,000 vehicles a day around four more rural Nebraska communities better for rural economic development than letting those vehicles pass through those towns?