Hwy 275 meeting

DAVE OLIGMUELLER (left) listens as Allen Swanson with the Nebraska Department of Transportation explains how the expressway will be constructed.

WISNER — The collection of public comments was one of the steps completed Tuesday evening by members of the Nebraska Department of Transportation for completion of a stretch of highway between Norfolk and Wisner.

The meeting at Wisner-Pilger Schools was designed to gather input — both pro and con — for proposed highway improvements in Stanton and Cuming counties.

The $63 million project will be done in two segments. The first stretch of roadway up for discussion runs from the Highway 275-51 junction to the junction of highways 275 and 15 leading to Wayne.

The second phase runs from that junction to the western edge of Wisner. The plans for this roadway construction were originally identified in a Nebraska Highway Needs Study conducted in 1988.

The timeline for the project calls for a time of public comment this month. Comments were made at Tuesday’s meeting but also may be written and sent, emailed or called to the state department of transportation.

About 140 people were estimated by officials to have attended the open house. Comments will be reviewed and responses given throughout October and November.

The first draft of an environmental assessment is anticipated to be completed early in 2020, and an environmental decision made that summer.

Following that will come right-of-way activities and construction, transitioning the two-lane highway into a four-lane expressway.

The new construction will connect completed sections of highway from Norfolk to Fremont and will be a two-plus-two concept. There may be some controlled access roads onto the four-lane highway, but not like that of an interstate, said Matthew Samuelson with the state transportation department.

Existing lanes will remain in place, said NDOT engineer Kyle Keller, and will be resurfaced. Two new lanes will be constructed parallel to the existing lanes, with new embankments and divided by a 54-foot grass median.

The determination of whether the new lanes will be placed north or south of the existing lanes will include the identification of various impacts.

These will include the subsistence of wetlands and floodplains, existing properties and historic sites, such as the former rest area west of Pilger and the Sharp Historic Site at the intersection of highways 275 and 15 to Pilger. The NDOT also will look at modifications to intersections.

As the expressway runs through Beemer, Wisner and West Point, the existing speed limits, determined by each city, will remain in place.

The project will be funded through a combination of state and federal funds. The NDOT has requested funding for the first of the two-phase project through the federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant.

The NDOT will learn if it will receive the grant, a request of $25 million, in November.

In other news

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Maybe the “Good Day Sacramento” reporter just thought he’d drive a little more traffic to his television station’s website when he climbed on top of a classic 1950s Thunderbird convertible and struck a silly pose, putting his feet on its pristine yellow paint job.

Talk is cheap. Aaron Gutz knew this and realized if residents there really wanted the idea of a Nebraska Community Foundation Affiliated Fund to be successful in Osmond, someone needed to put some skin in the game.