Omaha is ready to discuss long-term fixes for city streets after patching up damage from one of the city’s worst pothole seasons.
Mayor Jean Stothert on Tuesday announced four town hall meetings set for later this month. At each, the city will share the scope of road fixes needed and seek public input on what residents want to do and how to pay for it.
The city aims to develop a long-term plan for funding and carrying out road maintenance and rehabilitation, Mayor Jean Stothert said. Such a plan could help the city build longer-lasting roads that cost less to maintain.
“With our current revenues that we have coming into the city, we are not going to catch up the way our citizens expect us to,” Stothert told The World-Herald Tuesday. “There’s a big gap.”
Experts have advised Public Works officials that the city should be spending about $75 million a year on street pavement, Stothert said. This year it budgeted $41 million, a figure that has increased under Stothert.
The city has been reviewing several options on the revenue side, she said, from more bonds for roads to considering a dedicated sales tax increase, which would require a change in state law.
Whatever the city chooses, Stothert said she wants the funding for any plan that emerges from these meetings to go before a vote of the people. She called public buy-in imperative.
The mayor’s mention of funding options shows she understands that more money will be needed than the city can access today, said Paul Landow, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Decades of “minor neglect” of road maintenance and street resurfacing has added up to “a major problem” now, Landow said. City officials appear to recognize that they have to act before the problem gets worse, he said.
“I think recognizing there’s a problem that can no longer be put aside is a good first step,” Landow said. “Now you have to figure out what to do, when to do it and how to pay for it.”
Council member Brinker Harding, who represents west Omaha, said a plan for street improvement and maintenance should help the city with budgeting and give the public more confidence about what’s getting done and why.
City Council President Chris Jerram, who represents south-central Omaha, said the city can’t correct 50 years of backlogged work overnight. Projects this expensive often take a decade or more to complete, he said.
The result of the mayor’s public meetings could be a 10-year plan or longer, costing into the tens of millions and possibly more, Jerram said.
Studies show that Omaha would need nearly $1 billion to rebuild all of the city’s streets to current standards and catch up with resurfacing.
Recent city budgets have increased annual spending on street resurfacing from $2.8 million in 2010 to $12.2 million in 2019. The mayor says her 2020 budget proposal, which is expected later this month, will include another increase in the resurfacing budget.
The city also plans to spend $66 million on bond-funded roads projects in 2019, based on its Capital Improvement Plan, the mayor said. The city plans to spend $320 million in bond funds on roads from 2019 through 2024.
Public Works has spent much of the spring and summer patching asphalt and repairing concrete damage from thousands of potholes that cracked open after one of Omaha’s snowiest winters on record. It’s still catching up.
This winter into spring, Omaha spent too much patching potholes, about $13 million, Stothert said. It’s time to find a way out of triage — patch, pave and repeat, she said. That’s where the public comes in.
The mayor has scheduled road repair planning meetings in west Omaha, north Omaha, South Omaha and central Omaha from July 16 through July 22.
- July 16, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saddlebrook Community Center, 14850 Laurel Ave.
- July 18, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., The Venue at Highlander 75 North, 2112 N. 30th St.
- July 19, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St.
- July 22, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., University of Nebraska at Omaha, Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, 6400 University Drive.
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Dodge Street: Dodge was believed to be named for U.S. Sen. Augustus Caesar Dodge, of Iowa, who championed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 — along with Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, for whom Douglas Street is named. The 1854 act established the two territories, opened new lands, repealed the 1820 Missouri Compromise and allowed new settlers to decide whether they would allow slavery. But, over the years, it became less clear of the origin of the street name, and many took issue with what they called Augustus Caesar Dodge's pro-slavery stances. And so, in 2016, an effort was launched to officially name Dodge Street in honor of Civil War Brig. Gen. Grenville Mellen Dodge and his brother, real estate pioneer N.P. Dodge. Those efforts were approved by the city, county and state in 2016.
Jones Street: Alfred D. Jones did Omaha City’s first survey in 1854. It was said that, as Omaha’s first postmaster, the lawyer carried the mail in his hat.
Johnny Rodgers Street: Marlin Briscoe, left, and Johnny Rodgers pose for a photo before a ceremony to rename a section of Burt Street, between 30th and 33rd Streets, Johnny Rodgers Street on July 30, 2015. Read more
Capitol Avenue: This route led from the Missouri River to the second Nebraska territorial capitol, located on top of a hill near 20th and Dodge Streets. That building was replaced by Omaha High School in 1872, then by the school’s second building, which was completed in 1912. Omaha High School is now known as Omaha Central High School.
Mike Fahey Street: Fahey, pictured in 2009 at the ceremony renaming seven blocks of Webster Street from 10th Street to Creighton University as Mike Fahey Street, was the city’s longest-serving mayor since the City Charter was approved by voters in 1956.
A.V. Sorensen Parkway: Omaha businessman Axel Vergman Sorensen, mayor from 1965 to 1969, chaired a convention in 1956 that wrote the city’s current governing charter.
Farnam Street: Originally the main drag in Omaha, Farnam Street was named for railroad promoter Henry Farnam.
Bob Gibson Boulevard: Bob Gibson speaks after the unveiling of the street named after him in 1999. Deer Park Boulevard near Rosenblatt Stadium was renamed Bob Gibson Boulevard after the former St. Louis Cardinal pitching great and Hall of Fame member. Read more
Neal Mosser Boulevard: The stretch of Cuming Street from 30th to 33rd Streets was named after longtime Tech High basketball coach Neal Mosser in 2005. His coaching tenure stretched from 1948 to the late 1960s, and he was recognized as a positive influence on countless athletes, including Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson and NBA star and Olympic gold medalist Bob Boozer.
Bud Crawford Street: Larimore Avenue between 31st Avenue and 33rd Street was designated Terence "Bud" Crawford Street. The professional boxer was born and raised on that stretch of Larimore. Read more
Millard Avenue: Ezra Millard was president of the Omaha National Bank, which he organized in 1866. In 1871, he bought the land that was to become Millard.
Carol Van Metre Lane: Named in honor of the late Carol Van Metre, who worked to help ensure that the children of Omaha had parks and fields in which to play. It winds east from 24th Street at Woolworth Avenue and leads to Columbus Park, the Columbus Community Center, and Van Metre Field, which is named for Carol’s husband, Dave. Read more
College World Series Avenue: The section of 13th Street between Cuming Street and Mike Fahey Street was renamed College World Series Avenue in 2011 as a permanent reminder that TD Ameritrade Park is the home of the CWS. Read more
Dave Rimington Street: Mayor Mike Fahey with football great and philanthropist Dave Rimington, an Omaha South grad, during the dedication of the 20th Street to 24th Street section of L Street as Dave Rimington Street in 2002. Rimington redefined the center position at Nebraska, winning two Outland Trophies and a Lombardi Award before launching a seven-year NFL career. Read more
Boyd Street: James E. Boyd was twice mayor of Omaha in the 1880s. The Irish immigrant became governor of Nebraska in 1890.
California Street: Gold seekers headed west for California landed near this street after crossing the Missouri River.
Cuming Street: Secretary of the Nebraska Territory and acting Gov. Thomas B. Cuming convened the first Nebraska Territorial Legislature in Omaha in 1854, making Omaha the capital.
Harney Street: At the outbreak of the Civil War, Gen. William S. Harney was commander of the Department of the West.
Kyle Wayne LeFlore Street: The block of 29th Street between Fowler Ave and Meredith Ave was renamed Kyle Wayne LeFlore Street in honor of Sgt. LeFlore on July 20, 2018. LeFlore was slain in Omaha while on holiday vacation from the military. Read more
Marlin Briscoe Way: Marlin Briscoe, the first black starting quarterback in the NFL and an Omaha South High School graduate, was honored with a street named in his honor. Read more
Military Avenue: This part of the original Overland Trail twisted through Omaha and Benson starting in 1857. It was used to move military supplies to Fort Kearny and by settlers heading to the Northwest. In 1994, part of Military Road near 82nd and Fort Streets was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Minne Lusa Boulevard: Minne Lusa is a Native American term meaning “clear water.” A Florence pumping station was on the street. An elementary school of the same name is located near Minne Lusa Boulevard today.
Paxton Boulevard: William A. Paxton, known as the “real founder of South Omaha,” organized the Union Stockyards Company. He co-founded Paxton & Gallagher Wholesale Grocery, became co-owner of the Paxton & Vierling Iron Works and served in the Nebraska legislature. The Paxton Hotel was named for him.
Poppleton Avenue: Andrew Jackson Poppleton, a member of the first territorial legislature, was involved in deciding the territorial capital’s location. The attorney successfully represented Standing Bear in the Ponca chief’s 1879 trial. Poppleton served three times as mayor of Omaha.
Saddle Creek Road: This one sounds like it could be a tall tale, right? Details are sparse, but a man was apparently heading west out of Omaha to make his fortune mining gold. He didn’t get very far before a saddle fell off his wagon and into a creek that then flowed in the area. Hence the name Saddle Creek.
Woolworth Avenue: Attorney James Woolworth helped develop South Omaha’s stockyards. He wrote and published “The History of Omaha” in 1857. The city was only three years old.
Fred Astaire Avenue: On May 11, 2019, the day after what would’ve been dancing and acting legend Fred Astaire’s 120th birthday, Omaha honored its native son with his own street. The Fred Astaire Avenue sign is visible on 10th Street at Martha Street, less than a block from the house where Astaire was born. The family moved from Omaha to New York City in 1905. Read more