PANHANDLE, Neb. - (KNEP) - The Heartland Expressway project continues to push forward but sees some tweaks along the way.
According to the Board of Director’s President Deb Cottier the project doesn’t have a specific timetable for completion. With that said, they are in a much different spot now than five years ago.
The board cut the ribbon on a portion of the highway south of Alliance last summer and looks to have the rest of it leading to Bayard complete by 2020.
While working a strong partnership with the Nebraska Department of Transportation, the board received an $18.3 million dollar grant to continue working on the project.
Cottier mentioned the South Dakota portion connecting to Nebraska was finished but work still needs to be done to connect to the North Dakota portion. The Heartland Expressway remains part of the Ports-to-Plains project that will connect Canada to Mexico through the U.S. and allow for more commodities and goods to be exported out.
With that said, the state at one point looked at getting an interstate designation. Nebraska is the only state to not have a highway that goes north to south and as Cottier states very few go through a city. The Heartland Expressway which runs through cities would pose a problem if the board ventured for the interstate designation.
Cottier mentioned, the first is the need to create bypasses and while posing an impact on the community. The second included restrictions to farmers by forcing them to have to find alternative routes to transport their equipment and goods.
In the end, the board felt they should stick to what they originally were looking for which was to get four-lane highways. To their dismay, one portion won’t see a four-lane road anytime soon.
The 385 portion heading from Alliance north to the state border will be a super-two highway. This is a normal two lane highway with portions of it having a third lane to allow for more traffic. Cottier added they will have to show traffic numbers to NDOT to prove the road should be a four-lane highway.
For now, construction will continue on the existing plans to connect the panhandle to the surrounding states and help improve the economy.