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The Federal Highway Administration has issued an initial $25 million payment to help Nebraska rebuild and repair roads and bridges damaged or destroyed by last month's floods.

Nebraska Department of Transportation Director Kyle Schneweis said in a conference call on Thursday that Nebraska currently estimates damages to be $160 million to the state highway system and local federal aid roads. 

"With this ($25 million), we can get started quickly," Schneweis said.

The department estimates damages to the state highway segments ravaged by floodwaters in March to be $100 million, while damages to federally eligible local and county roads is estimated at $60 million, though the damage is still being assessed by officials, Schneweis said.

Initial inspections have identified more than 300 sites on the state and county transportation systems that need repairs and are eligible for emergency relief funds.

Schneweis said more than 50 repair projects are underway or completed.

As of Thursday, 103 miles of the state highway system remained closed, down from the original 3,300 miles, Schneweis said. About 190 miles of highway will need significant repair, along with 27 bridges. Seven bridges will need major repairs while six must be entirely replaced.

West Center Road and West Dodge Road remain closed in the Omaha area, along with stretches of U.S. 30 and U.S. 275. Roads remain closed in the Spencer area and near Columbus.

"These additional resources will help with rebuilding, relief and recovery during this tough time for Nebraska," Sen. Deb Fischer said Thursday.

"Nebraska is going to be rebuilding our infrastructure for months and years," Sen. Ben Sasse said. "We've got a long road to recovery, but Nebraskans are going to get the job done."

Sasse described the grant as "a continued down payment on the work ahead."

The $25 million in "quick release" federal funding will be used to help restore essential traffic and prevent additional damage at locations affected by severe flooding, the federal Department of Transportation said.

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Support efforts will help open routes for medical and food supplies, as well as transportation of livestock, the federal department said.

Federal funds for emergency work to restore essential travel are available in the first 180 days after a disaster occurs and may be reimbursed at 100 percent. Nebraska officials asked for $40 million to $50 million in initial quick release funds.

Also on Thursday, Nebraska transportation officials launched a website dedicated to providing updates on flood-related road closings and repairs. 

Flooding photos, videos

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

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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