The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has given final approval for the City of Lincoln and the State of Nebraska to proceed with the South and East Beltways. The FHWA signed the Record of Decision, which affirms that all environmental issues have been addressed and gives final approval to the Beltway locations.
"This final federal approval is very important. After decades of consideration, we can now proceed with the completion of a beltway around Lincoln," said Mayor Don Wesely. "Many people helped bring us to this point. Still, there is much work to do to secure the federal construction funds." Wesely expressed his appreciation to the Nebraska Division of the Federal Highway Administration and to the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce for its strong support of the project.
"The Chamber is very gratified to hear that the Environmental Impact Statement has been approved for the Beltways," said Gene Brake, Chairman of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. "The Beltways are needed investments in Lincolnís future growth, and the Chamber played a leadership role in making this happen through our local and federal lobbying efforts. The Chamber will continue to work toward maximizing federal funding participation."
Mayor Wesely also praised the assistance of U.S. Senator Ben Nelson and U.S. Representative Doug Bereuter in securing federal funds for the Beltway project. In July 2002, Senator Nelson helped secure $5 million for the Beltway project in the U.S. Senateís transportation appropriations legislation. Previously, Representative Bereuter helped secured $400,000 in federal funding for the initial beltway study, and in the 1998 transportation bill, he helped secure $4.125 million for the South Beltway. The cost of completing the South Beltway is about $120 million. The estimated cost for the East Beltway is an additional $130 million.
"This project will ensure that Lincoln can continue to grow and meet the needs of its residents by modernizing the transportation network," said Senator Nelson. "Mayor Wesely has done a tremendous job in getting the project this far, and I will continue to assist him in acquiring the resources Lincoln needs to improve the quality of life in and around the city."
City Public Works and Utilities Director Allan Abbott said City and State officials will meet soon to discuss a timeline for preliminary design and a public hearing, which will lead to the final design and right-of-way acquisition phases.
The South and East Beltways will connect with the West Bypass and Interstate 80 to form a nonstop beltway around Lincoln. The South Beltway route runs eight miles from U.S. Highway 77 to Nebraska Highway 2 . The East Beltway route extends about 13 miles from Nebraska Highway 2 to Interstate 80 about halfway between 120th and 134th streets.
A beltway around the city was first discussed in the early 1960s. In 1972, a corridor report was completed and the West Bypass was approved, but the proposed South and East Beltways were not. In November 1994, South and East Beltway study areas were included in the City-County Comprehensive Plan, and a new beltway study began in August 1995. The final routes were recommended for approval by the Mayor, the City-County Planning Department, the City Public Works and Utilities Department and the City-County Planning Commission. Mayor Wesely pushed for approval of the south and east corridor routes, which the City Council and County Board approved in August 2001.