What did the previous Citizens’ Transportation Coalition study?
The Coalition met over a five-month period; took public comment and heard from technical experts; and reviewed documents, system analysis, and budget needs as well as revenue generating mechanisms.
The Coalition examined:
- The current condition and funding structure of Lincoln’s transportation network.
- The desired level of service and condition of the transportation system and associated costs.
- How to implement and fund the desired transportation system with specific recommendations from the Coalition.
What did the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition recommend?
The Lincoln Citizens’ Transportation Coalition, made up of 27 residents, business and community leaders, uncovered a $33 million annual gap in funding to meet the City’s transportation needs. To fill that gap, the Coalition recommended that the City:
- Employ additional cost-saving measures and new technologies to stretch each transportation dollar as far as it can go;
- Pursue 24 best practices to streamline processes and optimize operations;
- Boost funding for streets using a local option sales tax, rather than increasing property or wheel taxes.
Sales tax was selected as the best funding strategy because residents and visitors alike shoulder the cost.
How can the public be sure that the money is being spent efficiently and on priority programs?
The construction program will be accountable to the public in three ways:
- City budget approval – The projects must be approved through the City Council’s budget process with vetting by City leaders.
- Annual program reports to the City Council and Mayor’s Office
- Citizen oversight – The Advisory Committee on Transportation (ACT) has been assembled and meets regularly to help review program goals, projects and progress and ensure equitable distribution of funding and projects across the City
How is the City funding streets now and how is that money being used?
An overview of City street funding and how it is used is outlined in the charts below.
$60 million annual budget
Wheel Tax ≈ $19 million
Highway Allocation ≈ $25.2 million
Impact Fees ≈ $4.2 million
Federal Funds ≈ $5.4 million
General Fund ≈ $5.0 million
Miscellaneous Fees/Other ≈ $1.2 million
Maintenance/Operations ($21.6 million)
- Pothole patching
- Concrete replacement
- Street sweeping
- Traffic signals and signs operations
- Emergency operations and traffic control
- Snow Removal
Capital Improvement Projects ($33.9 million)
- Major street construction projects
- New growth projects
- Residential rehabilitation
- Arterial street rehabilitation and reconstruction
- Bridge rehabilitation and construction
- Traffic signal system improvements
Debt Service ($5.1 million)
How much money does the Wheel tax generate for transportation infrastructure now?
The wheel tax generates approximately $19 million of the $60 million the City spends annually on the transportation system. The Lincoln Municipal Code is very clear that wheel tax can only be spent on transportation needs. It also requires that the Department of Transportation and Utilities spend certain percentages on certain types of services. Please see LMC Section 3.20.220 for more information.
By code, Wheel Tax can only be spent as follows:
- Residential Streets - $2.8 Milllion (14.86%)
- Street Construction - $6.6 M (35.14%)
- Street Improvements, Operations, and Maintenance - $9.5 M (50%)
14.86 percent is used solely to rehabilitate residential streets – LTU usually does so with a one- to two-inch mill and asphalt overlay. 35.14 percent is used for major street construction projects, new growth projects, bridge rehab and construction. Finally, 50 percent of the wheel tax generated is used for street maintenance and operations, such as pothole patching (LTU fills about 40,000 each year), concrete replacement, street sweeping, traffic signals and signs operations, emergency operations and traffic control.
Why is there a $33 million annual gap in street funding?
The Citizens’ Transportation Coalition spent several months evaluating the transportation facilities in Lincoln and found a gap of $21 million per year that was needed to better preserve our existing streets and transportation system, especially in residential areas. Seven million dollars per year was needed to upgrade traffic signals and intersections to enhance traffic flow, and $5 million per year to help address community growth and new streets. It should be noted that Lincoln spends about $2,400 per lane mile on street maintenance, compared to the average of the peer communities that spends $10,000 per lane mile. The largest gap in funding is seen in street maintenance and repair of existing streets.
Why is it important that the gap be addressed now?
The City has learned that investing more in street repairs today means avoiding more expensive street work in the future. For every dollar spent on maintenance now, saves the City $8 to $15 in high-cost repairs later.
- 58% of streets need minor repair and preventive maintenance
- 29% of streets need resurfacing or rehabilitation
- 13% of streets need rebuilding or reconstruction
- More than $600 million backlog in growth-related projects
With $13 million annually over six years, the City can bring more streets into the preventive maintenance and minor repair category, saving more money for major safety improvements or expanding our arterial system.
Also, constructing and resurfacing streets is getting more expensive every year. The City’s portion of the South Beltway was $50 million, alone. Inflation on construction has been steadily growing 5 percent annually, outpacing the growth in funding for local streets. For instance, the federal gas tax hasn’t been increased in 26 years.
How will the sales tax impact my personal budget?
A ¼ cent sales tax is 2.5 cents on a $10 purchase and 25 cents on a $100 purchase. The average annual impact can vary depending on how much each resident spends annually. That impact has been estimated anywhere between $31 annually to $45. The most recent studies suggest that $45 is more consistent with today’s annual average income in Lincoln.