The State of Nebraska now has a Department of Transportation, thanks to legislation signed into law on April 27 by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R).
LB339, which was introduced by Senator Curt Friesen of Henderson, creates the Nebraska Department of Transportation (DOT) by merging the Department of Roads and Department of Aeronautics.
The legislation was one of the Governor’s top priorities for the 2017 legislative session, and was passed with overwhelming support from the Legislature, according to an announcement by the Governor’s office.
“This legislation will create efficiencies, which will allow us to put more money into runways and roads without sacrificing jobs,” Governor Ricketts said. “Thanks to Aeronautics Director Ronnie Mitchell and Roads Director Kyle Schneweis for all their work on this merger. Also, thanks to Senator Curt Friesen for sponsoring and championing this bill in the Legislature.”
The Department of Aeronautics will join the Department of Roads under the new DOT umbrella with Aeronautics becoming a division of the current Roads structure. Schneweis will lead the Nebraska Department of Transportation with Mitchell overseeing the aeronautics division. Neither Department has identified positions to be eliminated but do anticipate two positions will be transferred from Aeronautics to Roads with more savings expected, according to the announcement.
“Merging these two agencies into one DOT shows that all forms of transportation are important for economic development across this state,” said Senator Friesen. “In rural and urban areas, we depend on good safe roads and strong competitive air service for growing our economy.”
“We look forward to the opportunities this partnership provides to streamline services,” said Director Schneweis. “This initiative supports the state’s commitment to more efficient and effective, customer service focused government. A united agency will help Nebraska take a more strategic, long-term view of our state’s transportation needs.”
Legislation to Speed Road Construction
A second bill signed by the governor is aimed at accelerating road projects throughout the state. LB271 was introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln and prioritized by Senator Suzanne Geist of Lincoln. The bill authorizes the new DOT to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the United States Department of Transportation, allowing the state to assume responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. This arrangement has helped accelerate roads projects in other states.
“Thank you to Senators Hilgers and Geist for working with their colleagues to bring LB271 to my desk,” said Governor Ricketts. “With this measure in place, our new Department of Transportation will have another tool to help accelerate infrastructure construction in Nebraska.”
“This bill is a win-win for Nebraskans—it will help get our highway projects done faster while saving millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Hilgers.
A third bill signed into law addresses workforce housing shortages across the state. Under the bill, rural communities in counties of fewer than 100,000 people can apply for grant funds to build workforce housing.