Chris Beutler today announced that the City is planning to improve 24 miles of streets this year, more than double the number of miles completed in 2014 and one of the largest street construction investments in Lincoln's history. He said the current "summer of progress" is possible because of the City's commitment to invest money in roads.
"This summer, orange is the new black in Lincoln, Nebraska," said Mayor Beutler. "Orange barricades are dotting streets across the City, signaling my Administration's commitment to safe and smooth streets as a funding priority. We are spending more annually on roads than ever before. It is why in the last five years, we have improved over 60 miles of arterial streets and 400 blocks of residential streets, civic investments that help keep our community safe and our economy strong."
This summer's major projects include the recent completion of 27th and "O" streets, the near completion of Old Cheney from 70th to 82nd streets, and the widening project now under way on South 56th south of Old Cheney. Beutler said the City is scheduled to spend $55 million over the next two years in reconstructing, widening and improving major arterials.
Beutler said the City increased street construction revenues by $7 million annually in 2010. Part of the budget changes included increases in wheel tax revenues. The increased revenues have allowed some major projects to be completed years ahead of schedule. Projects moved up include last year's improvements on North 33rd, the improvements now under way on N.W. 48th, 70th and Van Dorn streets and the current replacement of the Penny Bridges on Sheridan. This spring, when the final accounting of the Antelope Valley street projects resulted in savings of $10 million, those funds went to street maintenance, more than doubling our City's two-year investment. The new funding speeded progress on North 84th, North and South 27th, Normal Boulevard, Superior and West "O."
The Mayor said the City is also working with the Lancaster County Board to use funds from the Railroad Transportation Safety District to help finance the South Beltway as well as the North 33rd and Cornhusker project.
Mayor Beutler said the update of the City's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is an opportunity for a public discussion about what's next for Lincoln's transportation network. The LRTP is scheduled to be updated next year, and the public process will begin this summer.
"The LRTP community engagement will help the public better understand what we are doing well in street construction and what needs more work," Beutler said. "It will be an opportunity to discuss the pace at which we are building and repairing major streets, the need for regular maintenance and the need to repair neighborhood streets. If the community wants an even more aggressive arterial street program, we have to continue this accelerated pace, not for one year or five years, but every single year."
The Mayor said the LRTP process will also provide an opportunity to discuss the changing face of transportation funding. The primary source of funds for streets used to be the federal gas tax, but it has not increased in 20 years. As a result, he said, Lincoln has had to rely more on local wheel tax funding to keep up with the need.
"Since the dawn of civilization, roads have been critical to success, creating economic vitality and a path for future success," Beutler said. "Communities that have productively dealt with their roads challenges have thrived. We have remade our community and created a nationally recognized climate for business success and a high quality of life. If we can rise to the same level of accomplishment with our streets, Lincoln will continue to thrive in the decades to come."