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The U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced that Nebraska will receive an $18.3 million federal infrastructure grant for ongoing construction of the Heartland Expressway in western Nebraska.

The grant will allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to move ahead with conversion of approximately 14.6 miles of U.S. 385 from two lanes into a four-lane divided highway.

When completed, the Heartland Expressway will be a divided, multi-lane highway stretching from Denver to Rapid City, South Dakota, traveling on a route that encompasses Scottsbluff and Alliance.

"The Heartland Expressway is a critical infrastructure project for Nebraska families, especially for our agriculture producers delivering products to market and rural residents," Sen. Deb Fischer said in hailing announcement of the grant.

Fischer, chairwoman of the Senate surface transportation subcommittee, said she worked with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to bring the federal funding allotment to the state.

Fischer said Chao "heard from Nebraska transportation stakeholders about infrastructure" needs when she welcomed the secretary to the state in 2017.

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"This major investment, and several others announced today, will allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to build and promote economic development that will grow Nebraska," Fischer said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts hailed the announcement as another step in "an historic commitment from the State of Nebraska to build the 21st century infrastructure system we need to grow our state."

Among other grants were $2.4 million for runway projects at Beatrice Municipal Airport and $897,341 for a runway project at Aurora Municipal Airport. 

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

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

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