A new downtown Omaha walking bridge might someday connect the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge directly to north downtown and TD Ameritrade Park.
Omaha officials are working to advance concept and design studies for a potential link from the existing bridge that would extend across nearby railroad tracks and land near a parking lot north of the CenturyLink Center.
Today, the City Council will take up an agreement with the Nebraska Department of Roads for the bridge project. Construction on the project likely won't begin until 2016 at the earliest.
Funding the project also could require donations from the city's business and philanthropic community.
City planning officials estimate the connecting bridge could cost $3.8 million. A $500,000 federal grant awarded last year would offset some of the project's study costs, leaving a large funding gap to fill.
But officials say the project could help push plans to transform north downtown into an attractive city district. Or, as city planner Derek Miller said, it would help create a “sense of place” and community in the area.
The new bridge, planning and public works officials said, would expand bicycle and pedestrian connections between the riverfront and north downtown. There's a bit of a struggle with that now, they say.
The existing bridge is beautiful, city engineer Todd Pfitzer said, “but it doesn't really serve a transportation function.”
While popular, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge doesn't directly connect foot traffic to north downtown and the ballpark. Parking near the bridge entrance is scarce.
Another pedestrian bridge, named after Martin Luther King Jr., already connects Lewis & Clark Landing to the CenturyLink Center's southern side and to downtown. Officials said a new bridge would help spur foot traffic between the riverfront and north downtown attractions such as the ballpark and the HotShops Art Center.
“It's going to be a completely different experience,” Pfitzer said.
Such a bridge extension project was part of the city's 2009 master plan for the downtown area that sought to advance downtown's economy.
For now, the project must advance through planning and design stages.
Completing that process “would position us for foundation dollars and potential future federal grants,” Miller said.
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