U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, recently said the federal government should use Nebraska’s infrastructure plan as a national model.
Nebraska has funded its transportation and infrastructure projects without raising taxes.
“I introduced legislation [in Nebraska] to provide nearly $70 million per year for 20 years in funding for highways and bridges out of existing sales tax revenues,” Fisher said in emailed comments to TI News Daily. “We did this without raising gas taxes, a regressive approach that would have placed the burden on hardworking Nebraskan families.”
The senator also introduced a federal buyback program for local governments, which allowed them to cut through federal red tape and bureaucracy so that infrastructure projects can be done cheaper and faster.
Projects in Nebraska include Highway 133 between Blair and Omaha, the Kearney East Bypass, Highway 77 (Wahoo Bypass) and additional Interstate 80 lanes in the Omaha metro area.
Congress should address the gaps in current transportation user fees, Fischer said.
“Given the state of the Highway Trust Fund, with a nearly $15 billion shortfall each year over the next 10 years, Congress needs to examine where all of our nation’s trust fund dollars are going," Fisher said. "This means looking at transit systems, alternative fuels and electric vehicles, and determining how they too can contribute to the funding of core infrastructure in the United States.”
Although Nebraska has faced infrastructure funding challenges, a far greater challenge to getting projects moving has been the delays and burdens placed on towns and localities due to environmental permitting requirements.
Projects in Nebraska, such as the Heartland Expressway in the panhandle and Dodge S curve in downtown Omaha, have been delayed for years based on inconsistent environmental review processes.
“Currently, the state and Federal Highway Administration are working to resolve these major issues through a dispute resolution process,” Fischer said.