County commissioners April 30 disagreed with a key regional transportation planner over how much traffic will flow onto Platteview Road after the new bridge over the Missouri River opens next year.
Greg Youell, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, said he believes the short term impact will be modest, thereby granting the county more time to redesign Platteview Road for the long term.
But commissioners Tom Richards and Don Kelly voiced their skepticism and asserted Platteview Road is ill-prepared for the additional truck traffic they believe will come its way after the new Highway 34 bridge over the Missouri River opens in May 2014.
Youell attended the County Board meeting to deliver MAPA’s quarterly report and to brief commissioners on a study being conducted by Olsson Associates of Omaha regarding the future of Platteview Road after the arrival of the new bridge.
He said the portion of the study dealing with the long-term future of Platteview Road remains on hold as population projections are gathered.
Once that information becomes available, in the next month or so, then discussions can begin about whether the road should be rebuilt as an arterial road, an expressway or a freeway, he said, and issues of land use and sewer installation may be addressed.
The long-term future of Platteview Road is a central focus of county planners since the road traverses almost the entire east-west length of southern Sarpy County and is expected to impact the housing and business development of the cities of Bellevue, Papillion and Springfield.
Youell said the study is reaching conclusions about the short-term future of Platteview Road.
The bad news for Sarpy County, he said, is that easy and inexpensive fixes are not available.
He said line-of-sight issues exist all along Platteview Road’s long east-west path and that resolving those will require major reconstruction. He cited in particular the intersections with 36th and 84th streets.
Major improvements over multiple years will be necessary, Youell said.
“I don’t really see any real short-term major improvements that could be done that won’t cost a whole lot, other than maybe something like rumble strips,” he said.
The good news, he said, is that county leaders might be worrying unnecessarily about Platteview Road being inundated with additional traffic immediately after the bridge opens.
The proximity of the Kennedy Freeway, which is also Highway 75, should alleviate the load, he said.
“Given the traffic counts we’re seeing, and based on the existence of Highway 75, we don’t anticipate that there will be so much additional traffic that it would cause massive issues,” he said.
“Pavement issues and trucks will be the biggest concern, but in terms of actual traffic congestion I don’t anticipate any really major issues.”
Given that assessment, he said, it is probably wiser to wait until funds are available for a major Platteview Road redesign rather than install expensive fixes now only to have them removed 10 or 15 years from now.
“I think if you do start adding turn lanes or other projects, you’ll be surprised at the cost,” Youell said.
“Do you want to do it if you’re going to be doing major improvements 10 years down the road anyway?”
Commissioners were less optimistic about the short-term impact of the bridge, especially because Platteview Road will provide a direct link from Interstate 29 to Interstate 80.
“If I could save 15 to 20 miles, and I’m a trucker, by driving across from I-29 to I-80 I’m probably going to go that route,” said Commissioner Don Kelly.
“I think the traffic is going to increase significantly, and that road is not equipped to handle it.”
“It’s going to be a bottleneck,” he said.
He said Platteview Road lies within the county’s jurisdiction, but that partners will have to be found to complete such a major project.
“That’s our road,” he said. “I don’t know how we find partners, or how we put this together, but when that traffic starts coming off of I-29, diverting across on that bridge, I just think it’s going to be a huge, huge, huge problem.”