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A $600 million investment in roads projects by the state of Nebraska in fiscal year 2018-19 will include three Lancaster County road repairs or camera towers. 

Lincoln's South Beltway that would take traffic around Lincoln from 134th Street to U.S. 77 is included in the state's five-year planning program. In all, 14 Lancaster County projects are in the Nebraska Department of Transportation's program for fiscal years 2019 to 2024. 

Gov. Pete Ricketts said the record $600 million investment, of which 40 percent is federal funds and 60 percent state funds, was made possible in part by the Legislature's Transportation Innovation Act, enacted in April 2016, to provide new revenue, programs and tools to the Department of Transportation.

The Transportation Innovation Act (LB960), introduced by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, was related to completion of the Nebraska expressway system, and provided authority to the department to implement alternative contracting methods for the construction of state transportation projects.

Department Director Kyle Schneweis said the South Beltway will be bid in 2019 and construction will begin in 2020. It will provide desperately needed safety and mobility improvements on that corridor, he said. 

It will take freight traffic, for example, on Nebraska 2 out of the city, he said, "and let the commuters and the people of Lincoln navigate the roadways within the city. ... If we don't build the beltway we'll just get worse and worse and worse in the coming years."

The timeline for completion of the South Beltway is 2025-27, but the department is trying to accelerate that, Schneweis said. 

The 11-mile east-west freeway, to be built about half a mile south of Saltillo Road, will connect U.S. 77 on the west with Nebraska 2 on the east and will cost about $300 million to build.

The highway would have interchanges at U.S. 77, 27th, 68th and 84th streets and at Nebraska 2. It also would include overpasses and underpasses at smaller intersections.

"We know the community has waited and waited and we're getting so close. We appreciate the patience and we cannot wait to turn dirt," he said. 

The 60 percent in state funds for the projects is motor fuel taxes, the Build Nebraska Act, which is diversion of one-quarter of 1 cent of the existing general state sales tax receipts -- about $60 million a year — and the Transportation Innovation Act.  

"Our three largest industries are agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, all of which depend upon a strong transportation infrastructure to be able to grow," Ricketts said. 

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Projects planned across the state for the upcoming year include:

* 20 miles of U.S. 275 expressway design-build from Scribner to West Point, Cuming and Dodge counties;

* 18 miles of interstate reconstruction near Big Springs and Chappell, in Deuel County;

* Statewide pavement and bridge preservation, including 14 miles on U.S. 283 from Elwood north in Gosper County; 12.5 miles on U.S. 77 from Princeton to Lincoln in Lancaster County; 10 structures on Nebraska 53 near Alexandria in Thayer County; 11 miles on Nebraska 64 in Omaha, Douglas County; and 6.5 miles on Nebraska 96 west of Burwell in Garfield County.

Nebraska Department of Transportation is responsible for nearly 10,000 miles of roads and 3,500 bridges. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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