Mayor Chris Beutler today said the plan to improve safety and traffic flow on South 13th Street is based on solid data, expert analysis and real-life experience. And he said a City Council resolution to stop the project is "a reckless action that puts Lincoln drivers, bikers, and pedestrians in danger that could be prevented." The Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and take a vote on the resolution at Monday's regular meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. The project is part of the Safety and Operation Improvement Program in the recently approved Capital Improvements Plan.
"Keeping the public safe is the highest obligation of elected leaders," Mayor Beutler said. "That work must rely on expert analysis and scientific data. It cannot be based on guesswork, hunches or something that you might have seen on the Internet. The proposed City Council resolution has no basis in fact. It does not help traffic flow. It simply keeps 13th Street dangerous. I urge the Council to reject this resolution that would stop important safety improvements on a highly-travelled street in our community."
The project would convert 13th Street between Lincoln Mall and South Street from a four-lane undivided street to a three-lane street with a center-turn lane. The project also includes enhanced crosswalks and the addition of bike lanes to increase safety and mobility for all users.
Lonnie Burklund, the Assistant Director of Transportation with the City Public Works and Utilities Department, said the City no longer builds streets with this type of four-lane design, and the Federal Highway Administration discourages the design. He said that is based on decades of study showing that it is more dangerous for two reasons:
Burklund said that is exactly what has happened in the project area, which has seen 167 reported traffic crashes in the last five years. A detailed Traffic Engineering analysis shows that the three-lane design could have prevented 54 of those crashes with no loss of traffic flow.
Mayor Beutler said those looking for an example need only to travel farther south on the same street. "13th Street between South and Van Dorn is already a three-lane street with a center-turn lane," he said. "How does it compare? It carries 40 percent more traffic but has a 65 percent lower crash rate."
The Mayor thanked the South of Downtown Community Development Organization, along with Near South and Everett Neighborhood Associations who have worked with the City on the project and support the improvements. He said the improvements are consistent with the findings of the previous South of Downtown Revitalization Plan. The project is supported as part of a $150,000 "Partners for Places" grant secured by the Lincoln Community Foundation in partnership with the City of Lincoln Sustainability Coordinator.
"This safety project is designed specifically to give all the users the appropriate space in which to travel safely and conveniently: turning drivers in the center lane, through traffic in the travel lanes, cyclists in the bike lane, and pedestrians at the crosswalks," Beutler said. "That's how you increase safety, maintain traffic flow and improve mobility on an urban street. And it's exactly what this project brings to the residents, businesses and commuters on this part of 13th Street."
More information on the project is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: 13th). The project is scheduled to start this fall and be completed by the end of the year.