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Regional transportation planning is vital to keeping 21st-century communities economically competitive, attractive to young talent and efficient in connecting workers with employment. A new Omaha-area initiative called ConnectGO provides an important opportunity for coordinated transportation decisions across the metro area.

The dialogue will bring together corporate leaders, community volunteers, public and private organizations, and infrastructure and transportation experts. The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce is spearheading the effort. As part of the initiative, the chamber surveyed attendees at the recent Maha Festival to gain input from young people on their transportation priorities.

The ConnectGO initiative is in line with the Nebraska Legislature’s approval this year to create an elected seven-member transportation board in the Omaha area with taxing authority up to 10 cents per $100 valuation. A municipality could join the entity only through approval by two-thirds by its elected board. The Greater Omaha Chamber and the League of Nebraska Municipalities supported the bill, by State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, as a better way to fund the Metro transit system and carry out transportation planning for the area.

ConnectGO also links up to recent analysis that the Omaha area should focus 40% of its long-term transportation spending on public transit needs. The Nebraska Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency developed the report.

Transportation planning is by definition a long-range effort. Progress will consist of individual advances over time, coordinated through regional dialogue and consensus-building. One such advance is slated for early 2020, with the debut of Omaha’s first bus rapid transit line — Omaha Rapid Bus Transit, or ORBT — running from downtown to Westroads Mall.

Step by step, the Omaha area can strengthen its transportation network in coordinated ways that boost economic progress as well as the region’s attractiveness to newcomers. It’s a key opportunity to be seized.

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