About $6.4 million of state money will speed up existing plans to repair and maintain some Omaha-area roads, Gov. Dave Heineman and Mayor Jean Stothert announced Tuesday.
That's about one-third of the $21 million in state road maintenance funds that will be split among Nebraska cities after bids for state highway projects came in below estimates, Heineman's office said.
Omaha's share will help repair 11 sections of state highway that run through the Omaha metro area, including portions of Dodge, Douglas, Cuming and Maple Streets. Stothert said those projects could be completed by the end of the year and allow the city to nearly double the number of roads projects completed in 2013.
“We are decades behind in road maintenance and repair in Omaha,” Stothert said. “And good roads are a service that taxpayers expect and deserve.”
Stothert and Heineman's joint appearance came as the Stothert administration works on its proposed 2014 budget and fields ongoing citizen complaints about local road conditions. The mayor said she would propose adding about $750,000 to next year's road repair and maintenance budget.
Tuesday's press conference also underscored the Republican mayor’s efforts to work closer with a Republican governor and the GOP majority in the Legislature.
“There's a lot of issues we need to address in the Legislature in the oncoming years,” Stothert said. “I'm looking forward to mending some of those fences. … I think it's all about working together.”
Heineman said it's important for state government to work closely with cities.
“I always had a good relationship with Mayor (Mike) Fahey,” Heineman told reporters. “It was a little bit more difficult with Mayor (Jim) Suttle, and Mayor Stothert has said she wants to have a good partnership. We've talked about that numerous times and you're going to see us again more often.”
The roadwork had already been planned, Stothert said, but would accelerate because of what she described as Heineman's “generous contribution.”
Information distributed by the Mayor's Office said the extra state money distributed this year would help repair about 43 additional lane miles.
A spokeswoman for the State Department of Roads said it was working to identify other state projects that could receive money. So far, there are potential projects in Aurora, North Platte and Lincoln.
Heineman’s office said that up to $6 million in additional roads funding could be forwarded to Omaha in the state’s 2014-15 fiscal year.
The extra roadwork could lead to some construction headaches for motorists, but City Engineer Todd Pfitzer described the planned work as a “golden opportunity.”
“There is going to be a bit of pain as we go through it,” he said. “I liken road construction to heart surgery. Nobody looks forward to going into heart surgery, but you have to have it done and when you're done it feels so much better. You're healthy and everything's easier in life.”