OPINION: Improving Omaha’s Transportation: What should be considered in Mayor Stothert’s Transportation Bond

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Elle Love
ONLINE REPORTER 

It is the city’s responsibility to provide safe and quality transportation for its citizens. Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

Nothing would frustrate anyone more than almost ruining your car in your daily commute thanks to deteriorating roads and underfunding to fix them.

Omaha mayor Jean Stothert asked the City Council to authorize $200 million in transportation bonds to fix the streets of Omaha.

“The condition of our streets is a top priority for me and our taxpayers. Our streets have been underfunded for at least 50 years,” said Stothert in a news release. “We can stop the deterioration of our infrastructure, but it will take all of us to agree it’s worth the expense. Our needs are greater than our revenue.”

Mayor Stothert and a team of engineering experts evaluated the current street infrastructure and estimated the cost to develop the city’s first pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction program, where it’s showed that the city should spend $75 million annually (5% of the value of the total street infrastructure of $1.5 billion) to resurface 250 lane miles of road, according to the news release.

Currently, the city spends approximately $41 million a year and resurfaces approximately 125 land miles, resulting in an annual shortfall of $34 million dollars, according to the news release.

The transportation bond will pay for street rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction, residential asphalt resurfacing, concrete streets and concrete panel replacement and brick street repair.

The plan would be to possibly increase property taxes, wheel tax or sales tax—only if the tax increase receives voter approval in the May 2020 ballot.

Many people have expressed concern regarding taxes being raised for streets that haven’t been reached or needed additional maintenance.

Facebook group Potholes of Omaha posted a KETV article on their page that was met with mixed responses. While one comment applauded the infrastructure plan to be “cohesive” and “proactive,” others questioned the effectiveness in the wheel tax.

“I thought that was what our wheel tax was supposed to fund,” mentioned one Facebook user.

“Why are our taxes so much higher than other states?” asked another Facebook user. “I’m tired of the government reaching to my wallet and helping themselves to what they think they need. I don’t have that luxury with my job!”

UNO communication major Danielle Appersen said while she feels like the people of Omaha pay enough in wheel taxes, she is open to the mayor’s suggestions.

“I am in favor of paying more taxes, as long as they actually go toward fixing the roads instead of maintaining the roads or snow removal procedures,” Apperson said.

Apperson said if she were to pay higher taxes, she prefers the city uses higher quality materials when resurfacing and fixing the road to endure temperature changes.

“I think over the last few years our city has failed us in many regards,” Apperson said. “There is no excuse as to why our roads are in such terrible condition.”

Apperson suggested the city improve bike lane protections, with additional lanes out in West Omaha, and make crosswalks are more visible and marked. She also encourages more knowledge towards driver’s education.

“As a cyclist, I have experienced awful interactions with drivers,” Apperson said.

Apperson said many drivers pull into crosswalks, do not honor the pedestrian’s right-of-way and blatantly ignore individuals who are not in a vehicle.

“It’s dangerous and it needs to change,” Apperson said. “People are killed every year due to negligence and ignorance.”

Apperson said although creating bike lanes would be a vastly expensive project, we need them.

“In 2017, Nebraska was ranked the worst city for cyclists,” Apperson said. “By improving our infrastructure, we can help the flow of traffic, give our community more transportation opportunities and become an eco-friendlier city.”

Apperson also said learning about improving our city’s infrastructure matters.

“Each and every person in this city is impacted by it, whether they drive a car, ride a bike or walk. By being involved in your community and staying informed, you can help make our city a safer place.” Apperson said. “We need our government to take these issues seriously. If we do, they will too. Maybe.”

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