By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor ARTBA

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Nebraska’s senior senator Deb Fischer (R) toured the Cornhusker State together Aug. 11 to urge Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation funding bill. The duo also co-wrote an op-ed published in the Lincoln Journal-Star and on the U.S. DOT’s Fast Lane Blog.

“Investing in our transportation infrastructure is vital to our nation’s economic health and global competitiveness,” they wrote. “By doing so, we will strengthen safety and commerce, and, in the process, create good, well-paying jobs for hardworking people in Nebraska and elsewhere.”

Foxx and Fischer said nearly 12 million Americans work in transportation-related jobs. A long-term bill, they added, will provide states and localities with certainty and more options to move important projects forward. They also chided lawmakers for passing temporary extensions in recent years, “disrupting major infrastructure projects and causing stress for road builders, local officials and the traveling public.”

Foxx, a Democrat, remains optimistic about a long-term bill, despite the three-month extension passed by the Republican-controlled Congress before the August recess, according to press reports. The Senate also passed a six-year bill, and House leaders have promised to consider long-term legislation when they return from the summer break.  “I think we’ve got a moment here where something bigger can happen,” Foxx said during a round-table discussion in Lincoln, the state’s capital.

Foxx and Fischer also visited the future site of Nebraska’s first diverging diamond interchange, part of an Interstate 80 widening project. Hawkins Construction Company of Omaha, an ARTBA member firm, won the $36 million contract for the work, according to local news.