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Nebraska DOT’s Lincoln South Beltway Project Wins Regional America’s Transportation Award

by: Jessica Hoover
A Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) project won a regional award in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards competition, created by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The competition recognizes state departments of transportation (DOTs) for making a difference in their community, with each project falling into one of three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development, Operations Excellence, and Best Use of Technology & Innovation.

“In addressing the transportation challenges of today and tomorrow, state DOTs demonstrate a strong determination to bring innovative solutions to their communities,” said Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO. “The America’s Transportation Awards program serves as a testament to their endeavors, and I am excited to kick off the regional awards with WASHTO’s pioneering projects. These projects play a vital role in improving safety, enhancing mobility, and revitalizing transportation resources for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit customers alike.”

Twenty projects in the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO) region were nominated by state departments of transportation for this year’s competition. The following project in the Midwest Contractor area won a regional America’s Transportation Award.

Lincoln South Beltway (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Large Category)
The growing travel demand on the transportation network around Lincoln, Nebraska, was causing traffic bottlenecks and congestion along Nebraska Highway 2, worsened by the increased flow of heavy truck traffic through the area. To address these issues and improve regional mobility, NDOT constructed the Lincoln South Beltway, an 11-mile, $352 million project connecting U.S. Highway 77 and Nebraska Highway 2.

The Lincoln South Beltway project, one of the most complex in NDOT’s history, aims to alleviate traffic congestion on the Nebraska Parkway through Lincoln while enhancing travel safety for the community. This east-west, four-lane freeway will serve as an alternative route, diverting freight trucks away from the local urban transportation network, ultimately reducing commercial traffic inside the city.

Completion of the project was made possible by historic legislation to fund key infrastructure projects in the state. Decades of effort culminated with the passage of the Build Nebraska Act and the Transportation Innovation Act, enabling NDOT to collaborate with the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, and the U.S. Department of Transportation to secure the necessary funding and prioritize the project. Spring of 2018 brought further financial support, as NDOT was awarded a $25 million TIGER grant. Legislation was also authorized for the state to explore the use of an innovative financing approach, enabling the construction of the beltway to be expedited over three years, while payment for the project could be spread out over the original eight-year time frame.

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“As a result of our work together, the road to Lincoln is now paved with even more opportunity," said Lincoln Mayor Gaylor Baird. "By joining the two major highways in our city, we will support regional mobility, promote economic growth, and enhance public safety for the motorists and pedestrians who rely on our transportation network to get to and from work, school, and appointments.”

Preliminary work on the Lincoln South Beltway commenced in March of 2020, with construction beginning in May of the same year. Full construction is expected to be completed in spring of 2024.

Next Phase of the Competition
The three highest-scoring projects from each regional America’s Transportation Awards competition (a total of 12 projects) will continue on to compete for two national awards, the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. In November, AASHTO will reveal the winners at its annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Top 12 projects in alphabetical order by state are:

  • Florida Department of Transportation’s Hurricane Ian Sanibel Island Emergency Access
  • Georgia Department of Transportation’s Historic 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge Rehabilitation Project
  • Illinois Department of Transportation’s Jane Byrne Interchange
  • Iowa Department of Transportation’s Adult Changing Facilities in Iowa Rest Areas
  • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Mayfield Tornado Response
  • Maine Department of Transportation’s The Veranda Plan
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Flood Warning System
  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation’s U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
  • Texas Department of Transportation’s Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
  • Utah Department of Transportation’s Teamed-Up for Transit: UDOT and UTA Partner to Improve Mobility for Local Community
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
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