The rusting, graffiti-marked bus shelters that dot the wide sidewalks of downtown Omaha's 16th Street are on their last days.
Beginning next weekend, city crews will begin tearing out the five metal and glass shelters that were once a part of a rehabilitation plan for an area that would be a hub of stores, restaurants and foot traffic.
Instead, the shelters sit in front of empty storefronts, attracting attention from vandals and homeless people.
The work on the shelters will happen only on the weekends and will wrap up by the end of the month.
Workers will fill in the concrete under the shelters and replace them with more modern-looking structures. Officials said the work — a combined effort of the Downtown Improvement District, the City of Omaha and Metro — is an important step toward sprucing up the stretch of 16th Street between Dodge and Jackson Streets.
Brook Bench, the city's interim parks director, said keeping the shelters in good shape has become a “daily battle.”
“They're so old and tired and rusty,” he said. “The glass has been broken so many times, we've replaced it with Plexiglas — it's really become an eyesore.”
The city has ditched its onetime plan to turn 16th Street into a pedestrian mall with a bus transit center. The transit center will move to an area near 16th and Cass Streets. Plans call for the downtown section of 16th Street to get narrower sidewalks that provide room for on-street parking.
Funding has been set aside in this year's city budget for engineering and construction studies.
Joe Gudenrath, executive director of the Downtown Improvement District Association, said the city has planned to spend $450,000 on the project next year and is looking for a matching amount in private funds.
The old shelters will be dismantled, and the materials scrapped.
Officials from each of the groups involved in the work said they'll meet next week to schedule the work and determine how it will impact bus routes.
“The removal of the bus shelters is a very small piece of what we envisioned for the corridor, but it's a very important piece because of the condition of the shelters,” Gudenrath said. “It will be a welcomed effort.”
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