"The Quality is Very Good:" Ricketts Defends Nebraska Roads

Dec. 7, 2021, midnight ·

Governor Ricketts in a suit at a podium with microphones on it standing in front of farm machinery with five men standing behind him. A poster to the side is headlined "Career Exploration."
Governor Pete Ricketts addresses a crowd at the Iowa-Nebraska Ag Expo at the Lancaster County Event Center Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Jackie Ourada, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said his team is still working out details on how Nebraska could spend newly passed infrastructure money. Altogether, the state will receive $3 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in November.

At the Iowa-Nebraska Ag Expo, Ricketts said his main focus will be on improving Nebraska's roadways and bridges.

"One of the things I want to see is what we can do with regard to our expressway system – see how we can apply it there," Ricketts said. "Then, of course, roads and bridges are going to be a big deal, especially our county roads, and how we can help out with that. We've had our county bridge match program since 2016 that has been wonderfully successful, so we would like to build on that foundation and continue to improve our county bridges."

Ricketts also responded to comments made by gubernatorial candidates Sunday during a forum in Kearney. Republican candidate Jim Pillen critiqued the amount of money heading to states and said Nebraska's roads were "not that bad." It's a comment that brought responses from some of the other candidates, saying Nebraska roads are a priority for the infrastructure spending.

"I think that one of the things that's important to remember about the infrastructure bill, is a lot of that money we were going to get anyway," Ricketts said. "There's going to be incremental dollars on top of that. In general, if you look at the condition of our roads here in the state, the quality is very good."

The governor continued, saying the state rebounded with its roads specifically after the 2019 floods.

"We worked very hard, and you go back and look at what happened in 2019, how our department of transportation worked with the contractors here in the state to repair 200 miles of highway that had been closed," he said. "We had actually 10,000 miles of highways closed at one point. [We] repaired 27 bridges and really turned those around in a very short manner to be able to get those back up and running."

When asked about growing supply chain issues, Governor Ricketts said his team is working with other governors and the federal government on possible solutions. He's also weighing an executive order to relieve some of the supply chain strain.