UPDATE: City finds funds for South Beltway Project

By: Kayla Bremer

City officials teamed up with the state in an agreement that will allow the city to focus on high priority street projects like the South Beltway.

For decades, Highway 2 has served as the main stretch for heavy traffic and semis passing through the city. Which is why officials say the South Beltway, an 11 mile freeway that would go south and east of Lincoln, is a top priority to limit speeding and improve safety.

“The 3,000 accidents over the last decade on Highway 2 demonstrate the critical need to increase south Lincoln's road capacity and move trucks off Highway 2,” Mayor Chris Beutler said.

Beutler announced a new proposed agreement with the state that would shift millions of dollars in funds for the project. Basically, Lincoln will give the state $16 million federal dollars that are about to expire. Plus, that money couldn't be used on certain city projects anyway. The state will use that money now on Interstate 80 and then credit Lincoln the $16 million towards the bill for the South Beltway.

“In exchange, the Nebraska Department of Roads will give the city a $16.6 million credit towards the $40 million or more the city is legally obligated to fund.”

The estimated $200 million South Beltway Project is set to begin construction in 2020.

The proposal will go to the City Council and the Lancaster County Board for their approval.

There is a possibility voters could decide on a half–cent sales tax hike to help pay for road improvements. But first, the City Council will have to approve it to put it on the November ballot.

By: KLKN Newsroom

Mayor Chris Beutler today announced that an agreement has been reached with the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) on using $16.6 million in federal spending authority for the South Beltway project instead of lower priority needs.  The agreement will go to the City Council and the Lancaster County Board for their approval. 

“The City has $16.6 million in federal spending authority that will expire soon,” Mayor Beutler said.  “But because of federal restrictions and time constraints, we are unable to use those funds on our highest priority projects  – new construction and street rehabilitation.  This agreement with the NDOR will allow us to use the funds instead for our next highest roads priority – the South Beltway.   It's important to note that this is not new funding – it represents a shift in how these federal funds are spent.”

Under the agreement, the City allows NDOR to use the City's $16.6 million in federal spending authority on Interstate 80 reconstruction and coordination with the City on the N.W. 48th Street project.  NDOR then gives the City credit for the same amount on the City's share of the South Beltway cost.  The City needs a local match of about $40 million total for the South Beltway.   Mayor Beutler said the City's other option was to use the City's federal spending authority for its third highest priority – operational needs, such as traffic signals and lane striping, but the City has a legal requirement to fund its share of the Beltway. 

Mayor Beutler said the City's highest priority is construction and rehabilitation on roads such as Yankee Hill, Pine Lake, West “A” and South 56th as well as economic development projects on South 40th, N. 98th and Rokeby Road.  But design, environmental studies and other preliminary work are not far enough along to meet the federal spending authority deadline.  The stimulus funds and other federal aid in the last few years took care of the City projects that were “shovel ready.”

Beutler said the shift of federal funds helps close the funding gap for the Beltway project, but increases the funding gap for other road needs. “The difference between our identified road needs and our actual revenue doesn't change,” Mayor Beutler said.  “We still have an annual gap of  $7 million between our revenue for roads and our needs, and that gap is expected to increase.”

We'll have more on this story tonight at 5, 6 and 10.