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Location and Transportation

The transportation sector and the infrastructure that supports it are vital to Nebraska’s economy and quality of life.

Reliable, modern infrastructure makes possible our daily commute to work, our tourism industry and our supply of food and products that our families need and want.

Consider, for example, that trucks, trains, planes and ships move more than 54 tons of freight annually for every one of us. Unfortunately, the capacity of America’s infrastructure is currently considered inadequate to meet present-day needs, and the demand for new and improved infrastructure is expected to soar.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation released new freight projections predicting a 40 percent increase in the amount of freight moving on the U.S. transportation network over the next three decades. This is one more example of why investments in infrastructure are critical to our economic health and quality of life.

Transportation has always been a key economic driver for Nebraska, going back to the days of the Great Platte River Road – a superhighway in its day. Today the Cornhusker State sits at the heart of the great NAFTA Trade and Transportation Corridor between Canada and Mexico, and is easily linked to destinations throughout the United States.

Obviously, Nebraska is well served by two Class I rail systems (BNSF and Union Pacific) and 10 freight railroads, which operate more than 3,200 miles of track throughout the state. Freight railroads are unique in that they own, build, maintain, and pay for themselves. In Nebraska, this includes estimated investments of $110 million by BNSF and $79 million by Union Pacific Railroad last year alone – a key reason why the business community must support policies that encourage freight railroads to continue to invest.

When it comes to our highways, Nebraska holds almost 24,000 miles of hard-surfaced roads. Interstate 80 spans 482 miles from one end of the state to the other. Goods shipped by truck from Nebraska can reach approximately 26 percent of the U.S. population within one day; in two days, goods can reach roughly 90 percent of the U.S. population.

This why the Nebraska Chamber in 2016 was a strong supporter of LB960, legislation by Papillion Senator Jim Smith on behalf of Governor Pete Ricketts. The new law created a state infrastructure bank to accelerate completion of approximately 150 unfinished miles of four-lane expressways, which will greatly enhance the movement of goods for both businesses and consumers. NUCOR Steel’s Dirk Petersen of Norfolk – who is the 2017 chairman of the Nebraska Chamber – and other business leaders played a key role in the passage of LB960.

By dedicating $450 million over 17 years, LB960 will help keep Nebraska on the cutting edge of transportation infrastructure funding. Just as importantly, it will allow the Nebraska Roads Department to use a different bidding process (design-build) to complete projects more efficiently and quickly.

The passage of the infrastructure bank plan came just five years after Nebraska policymakers enacted LB84, a creative law that dedicates a quarter cent of the state’s 5.5 percent sales tax to roads funding. This approach has provided Nebraska with a more reliable method of highway funding in an era that would otherwise see declining fuel tax revenues. LB84 generates an additional $60 million to $70 million a year for roads, according to estimates.

Meanwhile at the federal level, Congress in 2015 passed the first long-term, surface transportation bill in a decade. But more needs to be done considering the infrastructure funding shortfall, due in large part to the federal gasoline tax being stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon – the same level it was in 1993.

Late last year, one of the State Chamber’s federal affiliates – the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) – announced an ambitious, new initiative to revitalize our nation’s failing transportation infrastructure. As plans move forward, NAM, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will work collaboratively to encourage federal policymakers to address our most pressing infrastructure priorities. For more information, visit www.nam.org/BuildingtoWin.

Without question, transportation infrastructure is vital to Nebraska’s and America’s future. Thankfully, Nebraska’s state lawmakers have been bold and creative in recent years in their work to address our infrastructure needs. The Nebraska Chamber is encouraging the same level of creativity at the federal level so America can truly invest in a world-class, 21st-century infrastructure.

DESTINATION MILES
Albuquerque, NM 837
Atlanta, GA 997
Boston, MA 1,519
Charlotte, NC 1,158
Chicago, IL 523
Cincinnati, OH 751
Cleveland, OH 852
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 625
Denver, CO 485
Detroit, MI 789
Houston, TX 877
Indianapolis, IN 643
Kansas City, MO 193
Los Angeles, CA 1,498
Louisville, KY 711
Memphis, TN 644
Milwaukee, WI 564
Minneapolis-St Paul, MN 462
New Orleans, LA 1,037
New York City, NY 1,297
Orlando, FL 1,436
Philadelphia, PA 1,267
Phoenix, AZ 1,253
Pittsburgh, PA 969
Portland, OR 1,602
St. Louis, MO 444
San Francisco, CA 1,614
Seattle, WA 1,676
Washington, D.C. 1,208

*Distance calculated from the Nebraska State Chamber
office at 1320 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68509

 

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