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Lawmaker: Time is right for Nebraska-South Dakota expressway

February 27, 2022 GMT

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) — A lawmaker is promoting construction of a long debated four-lane highway between Yankton and Norfolk, Nebraska, citing the recent availability of federal money.

Nebraska state Sen. Mike Flood has proposed a bill that would turn the 57-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 81 into an expressway. Flood said Norfolk was mistakenly overlooked on the state’s 1988 expressway plan linking cities of 15,000 with the interstate. Norfolk’s population is about 25,000.

In the latest census, Yankton has surpassed 15,000 residents, a figure that grows to about 20,000 residents when including the popular Lewis and Clark Lake area that comes with a steady traffic flow at certain times of the year.

Flood said the timing is right with the availability of federal pandemic relief funds and federal money for infrastructure projects, the Yankton Press and Dakotan reported.

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Flood highlighted the changed traffic patterns of U.S. Highway 81 not only in terms of numbers but also types of vehicles.

“This is a safety issue for our communities. We have a number of fatalities on that stretch of highway,” he said. “We have heavy truck traffic, and we have more people in boats, trailers and campers. We need to upgrade the roads.”

The Nebraska Department of Transportation said the conversion to a four-lane facility is not in the planning stages at this time.

Flood cites two other factors for making the change. U.S. Highway 81, also known as the Meridian Highway or Pan American Highway, forms a link from Canada to Mexico. In addition, the Lewis and Clark Lake area sees about 2 million visitors a year.