Highlights from our State Legislative Forum

23 Apr

We invited candidates for State Legislature from Districts 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 to attend our April Coffee Chat.  This blog features the two candidates that shared their time and thoughts with us.  We had a wide-reaching conversation with Terrell McKinney of District 11 (pictured on the left) and John Cavanaugh of District 9 (pictured on the right) and will share a few of their positions.

What are legislative issues relating to transportation that affect your District?

John – District 9:  My district is in the center of town and a lot of people pass through that don’t live and work in the neighborhood.  One example is Farnam Street between Happy Hollow and Saddle Creek Road – I see people driving the wrong way on it every day.  UNMC’s expansion will affect this district.  We need to figure out other ways to get people into this area without solely relying on cars.  We can’t widen the streets in Midtown without taking out great things.  I’m glad that ORBT is part of our transportation system.  The Legislature can affect zoning requirements and allow for bus and bike lanes – they can adjust the levy for Metro Transit. 

Terrell – District 11:  There is a highway going through my District which shuts us off from the rest of the city and stifles business growth.  A lot of District 11 residents use the bus and have to travel to other parts of the city for employment – but it would be better if they could work where they live.  The legislature could figure out a way to open up North Omaha through whatever means possible.  I live on 30th and hear semi’s going past my apartment every day – I would work on a way to limit semi traffic that goes through the neighborhood..  I would also look for ways to increase business growth and attract more transportation within the district. 

Last year Senator Wayne got a Regional Transportation Authority bill passed but it was limited to cities of metropolitan class (which is just Omaha).  Would you support the RTA and would you support expanding it beyond just Omaha?

Terrell:  Yes – to have better communities you need to be connected.  We must expand so Lincoln and Grand Island are also connected and could have an RTA if they choose.  Travel shouldn’t be so much of a burden – people have family all over the state and the only way to get to them is by car.

John:  Yes, it doesn’t make sense that they left out Lincoln.  Any community that wants to have a Regional Transit Authority should be able to.

Nebraska is looking to spend a billion dollars on widening Interstate 80.  Do you think we should do this in a post Covid-19 world?

John:  Post Covid-19 the world will eventually look similar to what it was before.  Some people will be able to work from home a few more days than before.  But there is a problem with I-80 and Dodge Street expansion plans – eventually you are going to run out of space.  On Dodge they want to eliminate the shoulder – they just created this road less than 20 years ago.  Widening just induces demand and is going to cause more congestion at other choke points in the future.  Omaha used to be a 15-minute town and people want to expand the roads to make it feel like 1990- but those times are gone and we need to look at things differently – if you want to take cars off the road you have to be able to find other solutions.

Terrell:  More people will start working from home.  We should look at alternatives to transportation to limit car flow through our city.  I don’t agree with widening 80 without looking for alternatives to transportation.

What do you think about the proposed Lincoln to Omaha Bus?

Terrell:  I’m for it, when I worked at Nebraska Appleseed I had to drive to Lincoln 3 or more days a week.  I’d love to not have to drive it.  Lincoln is close and lots of people commute between Lincoln and Omaha. 

John:  As someone who is aspiring to go to Lincoln often I’d rather take a bus so I can work or read the paper.  I don’t know the logistics or the cost, but if the pilot is successful I would definitely support it. 

Would you be supportive of the state taking the lead on encouraging remote work due to Covid-19?  If more workers could work from home 1 or 2 days a week that would reduce the burden on our roads and help many people who drive to Lincoln daily to work for State Agencies.

John:  We should innovate any way we can.  One advantage of Covid-19 is forcing us to not hesitate where we were hesitant before.  As a small state, we should be an example on how other states can do things.

Terrell:  I agree with John.  We have the ability to be creative and open our minds to expand and do things differently.  At times we stay stuck in one place in Nebraska.  Not everyone needs to travel to work every day and we need to be dynamic.  We should look into this and push for it.

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