Have Your Say on the S-Curve Project and the Future of Midtown

17 Dec

The City and HDR have made great progress on the S-Curve Area Connectivity Project, an endeavor to remedy poor circulation and prepare for increased development in and around Midtown.  The potential value to the community is evident in the project goals:

  • Address roadway deficiencies
  • Address any existing and/or potential transportation safety issues
  • Improve north-south and east-west connectivity
  • Accommodate future traffic
  • Consider transportation impacts and needs related to economic development/land use changes
  • Enhance the transportation and land use linkages between Midtown, Downtown, Park Avenue District and North Omaha
  • Provide interface and connectivity to all travel modes including automobile, pedestrian, bicycle, and transit opportunities
  • Minimize effect on environmental resources

Unfortunately, the preliminary concepts presented at the November 29th public meeting appear fixated on accommodating future traffic above everything else. Future traffic is about additional trips.  With the Central Omaha Alternatives Analysis, the Harney Street Cycletrack and an extension of the Turner Blvd Trail well on their way, there is no reason to expect that new trips will have to be by car.

This project should be more about the people than the capacity. In other words, what is going to make people want to live, eat, shop and invest in the area? The quality and the character of redevelopment will match that of the streets we build. If the vision for the neighborhood is urban infill where people walk, bike, take transit and drive, then there should be no alternative that substantially increases capacity for cars and/or tears down homes and businesses in the process.  Based on that criteria, 1B, 2E and 4 are the best concepts.  All the other concepts will make the area more hazardous and inhospitable for residents, customers and people in general.

As a community, it is essential that we enable the project team to focus on the neighborhood.  Informing them that these are the top three will clearly communicate that we want Midtown to mature into Omaha’s next great neighborhood.  Otherwise, the planners and engineers will understandably revert to the status quo: transportation for the sake of transportation. Your comments empower their creativity.

These alternatives are not set in stone, and the final “preferred” alternative will be a mixture of these designs.  So when you contact the city and the consultants, feel free to specifically call out what you like and what you don’t like as well (but stay positive, constructive criticism).  Once the preferred alternative is decided on, it’s unlikely to change.  Think of this as your last chance to have your voice heard, at least on how traffic flow will be configured for this area.

Comments will be accepted until January 6, 2013. Click here to email your comments.

To help you understand the alternatives being considered, here is a quick breakdown…

Current Condition

  • The S-Curve is a very sharp curve going down a steep hill
  • Dodge is 4 lanes westbound with parallel parking in places
  • Douglas is 4 lanes eastbound with parallel parking in places
  • Park Ave is 2 lanes northbound with parallel parking along western curb, ends at Dodge
  • Turner Blvd is 2 lanes southbound with intermittent turning lanes and parallel parking along eastern curb between Farnam & Harney

Keeping the S-Curve in the Current Location

Alternative 1A

Initial Concept 1A-PIM Scroll plot1

  • The curve becomes less severe
  • Park Ave widened to three lanes (two-way with center turning lane) and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd widened to three lanes (two-way with center turning lane)

Alternative 1B* one of the options recommended by ModeShift

Initial Concept 1B-PIM Scroll plot

  • The curve becomes less severe
  • Park Ave remains two lanes northbound and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd narrowed to two lanes southbound
  • The only design that handles future traffic without any widening, clearly the least cost solution.

Alternative 1C

Initial Concept 1C-PIM Scroll plot

  • The curve becomes less severe.
  • Park Ave widened to five lanes (two-way with center turning lane) and extended to 30th
    • would require many homes to be torn down
  • Turner Blvd closed between Farnam and 30th, trail continues with underpasses
    • there is no reason to have to close Turner Blvd, a balanced street is better than no street

Moving the S-Curve to Over I-480

Alternative 2A

  • The curve becomes greenspace
  • Dodge becomes 7 lanes (two-way with left turns)
    • Excessive capacity
  • Douglas narrowed to two lanes eastbound, doesn’t cross I-480
  • Park Ave widened to three lanes (two-way with center turning lane) and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd widened to three lanes (two-way with center turning lane)
  • Large roundabout at 30th

Alternative 2B

  • The curve becomes greenspace
  • Dodge becomes 8 lanes (two-way with left turns)
    • Excessive capacity
  • Douglas narrowed to two lanes eastbound, doesn’t cross I-480
  • Park Ave remains two lanes northbound and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd narrowed to two lanes southbound

Alternative 2C

  • The curve becomes greenspace
  • Dodge “braided” diverging diamond design, traffic drives on opposite sides of the road between Turner and Park
    • Excessive capacity
    • context insensitive, not appropriate for an at grade urban context
  • Douglas narrowed to two lanes eastbound, doesn’t cross I-480
  • Park Ave remains two lanes northbound and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd narrowed to two lanes southbound
  • The worst concept

Alternative 2D

  • The curve becomes greenspace
  • Dodge becomes 9 lanes (two-way with left turns and right turn lanes)
    • Excessive capacity
  • Douglas narrowed to two lanes two-way, doesn’t cross I-480, cul-de-sac at Turner trail
  • Park Ave widened to five lanes (two-way with center turning lane) and extended to 30th
    • would require many homes to be torn down
  • Turner Blvd closed between Farnam and 30th, trail continues with underpasses
    • there is no reason to have to close Turner Blvd, a balanced street is better than no street

Alternative 2E* one of the options recommended by ModeShift

  • The curve becomes greenspace
  • Dodge becomes 5 lanes (maintains crosssection + right turn lanes )
  • Douglas narrowed to two lanes eastbound, doesn’t cross I-480
    • opportunity for good pedestrian realm
  • Park Ave remains two lanes northbound and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd narrowed to two lanes southbound

Moving the S-Curve to East of I-480

Alternative 3

  • The curve becomes greenspace
    • new curve would tear down existing structures
  • Dodge becomes 7 lanes (two-way with left turns)
    • Excessive capacity
  • Douglas remains three lanes but converted to two-way with center turning lane until curve
  • Park Ave widened to three lanes (two-way with center turning lane) and extended to 30th
  • Turner Blvd widened to three lanes (two-way with center turning lane)
  • Large roundabout at 30th

No S-Curve

Alternative 4* one of the options recommended by ModeShift


  • The curve becomes greenspace
  • Dodge & Douglas Asymmetric two-way pair all the way downtown
    • conversion would continue all the way downtown
    • project can probably afford a two-way conversion, because it won’t incur the cost of building a new bridge over I-480.
    • two-way conversion would be better if Dodge would remain five lanes wide between Park and Turner
  • Dodge two westbound lanes, one eastbound, one left turn lane, 6 lanes wide between Park and Turner
  • Park Ave widened to three lanes northbound between Dodge and Douglas
  • Turner Blvd remains the same

Some potential additions to your comments:

  • There is no reason for Dodge Street to have more than five lanes, it will be loud and polluted and will be difficult and unsafe for pedestrians to cross.
  • Make sure there is adequate space for sidewalks, street trees, benches and other street furniture.
    • Sidewalks of less than six feet are difficult for groups of three or more to navigate.
    • Street trees typically need at least six feet between the curb and the sidewalk to grow to maturity.
    • According to the Arbor Day Foundation, “Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent.”
    • According to the International City/County Management Association, “Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent.”
    • Benches and street furniture are essential to encouraging street life and to stimulating foot traffic.
  • Make sure there is adequate facilities for cycling.
    • If there isn’t room or the need for bike lanes, then add sharrows or share the road signage.
    • Make sure there is plenty of bike parking.
  • Consider a safe crossing for the Turner Blvd Trail at Dodge Street, such as a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon.
  • Create a pedestrian and bicycle connection between 31st & Davenport and the expanded Turner Blvd Trail.
  • If the S-Curve moves east of I-480 or above I-480, keep the Douglas Street bridge.
    • It could become as a pedestrian plaza
    • It could provide diagonal parking with two lanes of two-way traffic.
    • The gorgeous view of Turner Park and Midtown Crossing is a huge development potential and shouldn’t be ignored.
  • If Park Avenue or Turner Blvd are converted to two-way traffic, don’t add left turn lanes, a little more congestion at rush hour is worth leaving more space for onstreet parking, street trees and nice sidewalks.
  • Consider saving money and space by leaving out some of the turning lanes and accepting a tiny bit more delay at the intersections.

6 Responses to “Have Your Say on the S-Curve Project and the Future of Midtown”

  1. John Barna December 18, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    This should have been addressed by the developers of the Mid-Town remodel. I believe it is fine the way it is. A 2 way proposal for Dodge ST. ending on 24th is my vote.

    • modeshiftomaha December 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. Please also make sure to send them to Public Works!

  2. Dave Reinarz December 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    I don’t see anything in any of these proposals that is intended to result in reduced traffic in this corridor. Intelligent transportation planning for our future would result in fewer cars on the streets and fewer miles traveled by those cars. All planning should emphasize getting people on their feet, on bikes, and on mass transit. This would make it reasonable for Dodge and Douglas to be bidirectional with no S curve.

  3. Win January 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Roundabouts have their own set of pros and cons and can be a challenge when first confronted. However, putting a roundabout at the immediate end of a highway exit ramp would seem to be asking for trouble since a highway exit ramp would see more traffic from visitors unfamiliar with the roads.

  4. Alan January 7, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    How does mass transit fit into any of these solutions. Wondering if it is possible to build a BRT lane. Are the designs conducive to a relationship between mass transit and the people who want to use it or is it designed only for the auto?

    • modeshiftomaha January 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Good questions! Please send in to the city as well. See the email link above.

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