Fischer, Chao

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (left) and Sen. Deb Fischer listen during a meeting Tuesday with transportation executives in Omaha.

Courtesy photo

Sen. Deb Fischer said Wednesday she is pushing for sufficient flexibility in the emerging Trump administration infrastructure development plan to open the way for funding support for Omaha's hugely expensive sewer separation project along with expansion of broadband internet service in rural Nebraska.

Fischer is one of three senators who sat down at the White House three weeks ago for a luncheon briefing about the program that emerged as a signature element of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

While the bulk of the program is certain to be aimed at more populous urban areas, Fischer said she believes there may be "some good opportunities for Nebraska" if the finished product contains some of the flexibility she is proposing.

Omaha's federally mandated sewer overhaul is likely to cost at least $2 billion.

"That's a big obligation (that) impacts the citizens of that community," Fischer said, and perhaps some infrastructure program funding support could be accessed with a match of local funds.

The new program also opens "an opportunity for broadband" that could be used in Nebraska in rural areas that remain unserved, she said.

Nebraska already has a state government "mechanism in place (to) put forward matching dollars," Fischer said during a telephone interview from Ord. 

Fischer, who authored an innovative new highway development program in Nebraska when she was a state senator, is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and chairwoman of its subcommittee on surface transportation.

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On Tuesday, she hosted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in Omaha for a transportation stakeholders roundtable discussion that was followed by an Omaha Chamber of Commerce luncheon and a tour of Union Pacific's facilities in Omaha.

"I hope to build on our productive discussion as I continue to bring Nebraska ideas to the Senate," Fischer said.  

"I think we have some opportunities, and obviously I will be be in close touch with the administration."

Fischer, a Republican and Nebraska's senior senator, said she "would like to see a bill put forward by the end of the year" so that Congress can get to work on the legislation.

"I hope it's an area where we can get a lot of bipartisanship," she said.  

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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