Op-Eds

In 1919, the U.S. Army conducted an expedition across the United States. The mission? Evaluate the transportation capabilities of the military and assess the sorry state of the nation’s infrastructure. 

The trip was difficult. Starting in Washington, D.C., and following the “Lincoln Highway,” the convoy encountered terrible roads, mud, breakdowns and other issues. In fact, the troubles began in Nebraska.

When traveling the state, the Army convoy had to take extended rests in Gothenburg and Ogallala due to the rough conditions. According to the U.S. Archives, “more than 230 recorded road accidents occurred” over the course of the 62-day trip.

Among the officers involved in the convoy was Dwight D. Eisenhower – the future Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and the 34th President of the United States.

The experience navigating our nation’s poor infrastructure in 1919 stayed with Eisenhower, and it’s credited with helping to inspire his passion for the creation of the federal Interstate Highway System. 

The story is a good illustration of the vital role the federal government must play in maintaining and expanding our nation’s infrastructure.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the bipartisan infrastructure bill being signed into law. I voted to pass this important legislation because the modernization of everything from our aging transportation network to our water infrastructure is essential to Nebraska’s economy.

To date, Nebraska has already received $1.02 billion in infrastructure investments from the bill.

That includes $394.9 million going toward things like airport improvement projects, enhancements to pedestrian safety and a new multimodal transit center in Lincoln. These initiatives will improve everyday travel and attract new economic opportunities to the state. Overall, the 2021 infrastructure bill will provide Nebraska $2.2 billion to improve our roadways and bridges – many of which are in poor condition.

Nebraska has also already received $64.4 million in funding to update our drinking water systems, replace dangerous lead pipes and upgrade wastewater facilities. We all know how important water access is to our state, so I’m pleased that these investments will help generations of future Nebraskans enjoy this precious resource.

Then there’s the broadband – another crucial component of the infrastructure bill. Poor, or in some cases zero, access to a reliable internet connection has negative impacts on just about everything. Across Nebraska, families, businesses, schools, hospitals and ag producers all need to connectivity to power modern life.

Thanks to the infrastructure bill, Nebraska should receive over $200 million to expand broadband networks and access. This will be a historic investment toward closing the digital divide and providing more Nebraskans with high-speed internet. 

As more of this funding becomes available, we’ll see our rural communities in particular benefit. To ensure these investments are managed efficiently, I also successfully added a provision to the bill to ensure there is better coordination between federal agencies on broadband programs.

The investments I’ve outlined are just a small sample of the transformative impact the 2021 infrastructure bill is already having on our state.

The bottom line is this bill remains a powerful investment in our state’s future.

As President Eisenhower understood many decades ago, good infrastructure underpins any nation’s economic output. The United States cannot be an economic superpower if our roads, bridges, waterways and in today’s world, broadband connectivity, are decades out of date.

I’m pleased with the status of the infrastructure bill’s investments in Nebraska, and I forward to sharing more updates about the many resources coming to our great state.

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