Omaha street conditions fall well short of what’s expected of a forward-looking, well-functioning city. The city’s street budget, woefully underfunded for decades, doesn’t come close to meeting the need. Omahans regularly vent their frustration at the subpar conditions. The widespread winter pothole horrors a year ago, which forced the city to close an entire section of 144th Street for emergency reconstruction, provided painful proof of Omaha’s need for a serious long-term solution.
The Omaha street bond on the May 12 ballot provides the answer. The $200 million proposal would create, for the first time, a sound, adequately funded long-term plan to meet the city’s street needs. It also has the added and suddenly critical benefit of providing good jobs.
On the May 12 ballot, let’s seize this crucial opportunity. The bond proposal deserves Omahans’ approval, for the future of the city.
Engineering analysis shows that Omaha should be spending $75 million annually to put its long-term street maintenance and construction on a sustainable cycle. Current spending is only $41 million.
The bond proposal would raise $40 million annually for five years, to place the city on a sound course for repairs and new construction. This strategy would help Omaha achieve a crucial goal: Every street in the city could be resurfaced over the course of its 20-year average lifespan.
Passage of the bond issue would raise property taxes by an estimated $26 for every $100,000 of valuation. These are challenging times, no question, for many Omaha households due to the virus emergency. The bond proposal, though, is a long-term venture. Launching it later this year would bring tremendous benefits to the city as we eventually move out of the current crisis. Federal money also may become available to help with cities’ infrastructure needs.
Addressing the city’s infrastructure needs — at long last — would boost our economic competitiveness against peer cities and improve the quality of life throughout the city.
If the bond proposal is defeated, the street problem would remain. And the costs of addressing it would only be more expensive in the future. That’s why it’s important to begin now.
The street plan has particular value in several regards:
» It is a well-developed, solid strategy that addresses needs throughout the city. Engineers and other analysts studied the city’s street data over two years, then methodically developed this strategic approach. The proposal would address needs in every part of the city.
» It would provide a far more efficient use of public money. Last year the city spent $17 million on pothole repair. For that same amount, the city could resurface about 185 lanes of road. This is the strategy the bond proposal would use. Such an approach would provide a use of public money far superior to the city’s current catch-up efforts — especially because the new approach would be used decade after decade.
» It would create jobs, giving a major boost to local employment. The surge in construction from this extra $40 million would help lift Omaha’s economy out of the coronavirus doldrums. This heightened funding would be a continuing employment generator, since it would continue into the long term.
Omaha has been a progressive city in some regards, but has stumbled badly when it comes to sustaining its basic infrastructure. It’s time to correct that failure by saying Yes to the Omaha street bond proposal.