Throughout the past year, I have had several meetings with the Nebraska Department of Roads to track the progress of the U.S. Highway 77 – Platte River bridge project south of Fremont. This major roadway is extremely important to the economy of our Legislative District and it is a key element of our statewide transportation network. It is essential that we provide quality roadways in our state and replacement of this bridge is a top priority for the Legislature and the Department of Roads.
The Department has done extensive environmental and engineering reviews in preparation for building a new replacement bridge across the Platte River channel. It is a complicated endeavor due to the impacts that the construction process will have both in and around the riverbed. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers all have to weigh in and reach agreement before a construction permit is issued to the state.
These agencies and the Department have worked together to address cost and timeline concerns. There was disagreement between the parties on whether the construction process required the erection of a temporary bridge or whether a causeway could be used to build the new bridge. Using a temporary bridge requires more resources, but in order to move the process along, the Department of Roads has agreed to apply for the construction permit using the temporary bridge method. By doing so, the Department feels that it is reasonable to expect approval of the project by next spring and they hope to begin building the new bridge by the summer of 2010.
The construction of the new four-lane bridge is expected to take portions of two years. Considerations for ice jam complications in the winter and endangered species activity in the spring each year have been included in the timeline. If all goes according to plans, traffic will begin on the new structure in December 2011 or January 2012. This is welcome news for a significant upgrade in our area’s transportation infrastructure.
I am also very pleased to report that Fremont has been selected as one of four new Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services customer call centers in the state after a thorough competitive bidding process. Twenty-one Nebraska communities submitted 81 bids to host call centers.
Fremont has been awarded the largest of the four new call centers, with 150 new jobs scheduled for facility. The Lincoln and Scottsbluff centers will have 100 employees each. Lexington will have 50 employees. All centers will be online and operational by 2012.
The Health and Human Services system is establishing these call centers in order to upgrade their technological capabilities to more efficiently handle delivery of economic assistance program services to those persons who qualify. The state has been exploring ways to make these improvements for several years. They have studied the experience of other states and have utilized the best practices of all these efforts to establish our new system delivery. Applicants will still be able request in-person consultation if requested. When the conversion is complete, people will be able to apply for services by phone, Internet, or in person.
It is a great testament to the skills and capabilities of our residents and our economic development community that we were successful in getting the largest of these new centers. Fremont and Dodge County can be proud of our exceptional workforce and the technology infrastructure capabilities of our area. I am confident that the Fremont center will set a high standard for performance. Congratulations and thank you to all the people involved in making this project a success.