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Santa has been good to Legislative District 32 this year. Santa’s gift came early this year in the form of the South Beltway in Lincoln opening six months ahead of schedule. Construction started in May 2020 and was supposed to be completed in May 2023 but the weather and the way the road was financed allowed it to be finished earlier. I had the opportunity to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony last Wednesday for the beltway which is an absolute game-changer for traffic in and around Lincoln, and is the largest project ever undertaken by Nebraska’s Department of Transportation, clocking in at $352 million.
The entire project includes the paving of 60 lane miles of roadway and the construction of 21 bridges, 39 box culverts and five roundabouts. The western entrance to the new beltway is on US 77 near Saltillo Road and is located in LD32. The entire 4-lane beltway goes for 11 miles from US 77 and connects back to Highway 2 around 120th Street. The streets that formally encompassed Highway 2 through Lincoln have been renamed Nebraska Parkway. More construction work still needs to be done, including the 27th and 84th streets exits which are expected to be completed by May 2024. I want to thank the workers, engineers, planners, Hawkins Construction, subcontractors and fellow senators that made the South Beltway happen.
Beyond Santa’s kindness, the South Beltway also received a $25-million federal grant obtained by U.S. Senator Deb Fischer as well as $50 million in funding from the City of Lincoln. Also, in 2019, the Legislature passed a bill that allowed the state to pay off the cost of the Lincoln South Beltway project over eight years, rather than all at once. In 2021, I introduced a similar bill that would allow counties to pay for bridges in installment payments. Unfortunately that bill did not garner the same support, but I plan to re-introduce a version in January.
In broadband news, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released an initial draft of a national map showing in greater detail what locations in the country have broadband service. The prior map was used to distribute federal dollars and has been criticized because of its lack of detail about service availability. Because of that, in 2020 Congress ordered the FCC to take a more granular approach. The new map attempts to show whether or not every location in the country has service. The Commerce Department is planning to allocate $42 billion from the federal infrastructure law’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program to states on June 30.
States, localities, and the general public have until January 13th to challenge the map’s accuracy with the FCC before the billions in broadband funding are divided up between states based on what percentage of residents lack high-speed internet. Anyone (that means you!) can check their address and see if it accurately shows whether they have broadband service. If the map is incorrect, you can file a challenge. Nebraskans are now going to be able to raise their hands and say whether or not they have access. Please visit https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home to make sure your address is accurately represented.
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