Road study delay not on federal agency

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Posted: Friday, January 3, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:26 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

The Federal Highway Administration is unhappy about suggestions it is responsible for a 16-month delay of the study designing Platteview Road.

Doug Hecox, spokesman for the federal agency, said statements made by Sarpy County Director of Public Works Dennis Wilson painted the federal agency in an unfair light.

Wilson told the Sarpy County Board Dec. 3 the county’s decision to expand the scope of the study west to Highway 31 in Gretna caused the federal agency to freeze its contributions pending review of the changes. Since the federal contribution represents 80 percent of the study’s $160,000 cost, the study ground to a halt.

But Hecox, in a call to the Papillion Times, said the agency had quickly approved the expanded study.

Wilson acknowledged the federal agency’s complaints last week.

He said he had spoken with Melissa Maiefski, a team leader with the Lincoln offices of the Federal Highway Administration.

“According to her they had turned their review around within two weeks,” he said. “That’s not the story I heard from other people involved in the project, but I certainly believe that Melissa is telling the truth.”

Nevertheless, Wilson said, the 16-month delay is a fact.

“We’re going to sit down with the Metropolitan Planning Agency and the FHWA, the consultant, and the Nebraska Department of Roads just to see where the delays are coming from and see if we can’t rectify things,” he said.

Joe Werning, administrator of the Nebraska division of the federal agency, said he is willing to meet with Sarpy County officials to explain the process of securing federal aid.

“The Federal Highway Administration takes pride in its support for locally administered projects, such as the Platteview Road study, which is why recent claims suggesting we attempted to stop it were so surprising to us,” he said in an email. “We have not only strongly supported it, we have encouraged its expansion to be an even more comprehensive study.”

The delay in completing the study concerned Commissioner Tom Richards, who said southern Sarpy County is wholly unprepared to absorb the additional traffic that will flow from the new bridge over the Missouri River that is expected to open next fall.

The study is being conducted by Olsson Associates of Omaha.

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