Nebraska public-private partnership bill nears passage

April 12, 2022

Keith Goble

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A Nebraska bill nearing passage covers the use of public-private partnerships for transportation projects.

Sponsored by Sen. Lynne Walz of Freemont, the bill would allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to enter into public-private partnerships to construct and finance certain capital projects, which include completion of the state’s expressway system.

In 1988, planning began for the completion of the expressway system. The system has a completion date of 2040.

The system is intended to connect locales with populations of at least 15,000 to Interstate 80.

A tool to accelerate projects

Advocates say authorization of public-private partnerships would accelerate the completion of the system that has been delayed in northeast Nebraska.

Walz has said the highway department needs more tools to speed that process, including a mechanism for a private partner to finance a project and for the state to make payments over time.

“We are a pay-as-you-go state, which seems like the fiscally responsible thing to do, but as we continue to see inflation, wages and supply costs increase, we may not have the financial resources to continue down that path for every project,” Walz said in a news release.

She added that her bill, LB1016, would authorize the department to enter into public-private contracts to allow for the creation of safer bridges and highways, quicker project completion timelines, and economic development.

A change made to the bill would allow a contractor to use the design-build method – a public-private contracting method for purposes of project delivery.

Additionally, the requirement that the Nebraska State Highway Commission oversee and approve public-private partnership proposals entered into by the NDOT would be removed. The requirement that public-private partnership agreements be submitted to the legislature for approval and that lawmakers give prior approval for projects exceeding $100 million would also be removed.

LB1016 awaits a final Senate floor vote before it could move to the governor’s desk. LL

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.