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When More is Not Nearly Enough: Pothole Season Edition

29 Jan

During the last race for Mayor of Omaha, an undisputed detail of the state of the city’s transportation infrastructure is that we, as a city, are more than a half century behind schedule resurfacing our vehicle lanes.  And the breakdown of vehicle lanes leads to our annual vehicle lane issue of winter potholes. Mayor Stothert recognizes that the resurfacing backlog is an issue that requires action. She has nearly doubled the budget for resurfacing projects in her time in office from $6.6 million to $12 million.

In her first term, Mayor Stothert reports that she spent $44.6 million resurfacing 400 lane miles throughout the city. That roughly works out to 100 lane miles per year at a cost of $111,500 per lane mile. According to public works, the city currently maintains 4823 lane miles throughout the city. A well maintained road should last approximately 20 years, depending on environmental conditions and use. Let’s look at the math and see where we end up.

First, if we are only resurfacing 100 lane miles per year, it will take 48 years to resurface all the lanes currently being maintained by the city. That’s well beyond the expected useful life of our streets. But let’s assume the demand for resurfacing continues at a consistent rate, and we are going to resurface on the anticipated schedule of every 20 years. The 4823 lane miles multiplied by the $111,500 per lane mile cost gives us a total of $537,764,500 to resurface all the current lanes. To meet the goal of resurfacing all the lanes every 20 years (and assuming a consistent rate of demand) we would need to be spending $26,888,225 every year, or more than twice the current budget. And these numbers only account for resurfacing; some roads will need to be entirely replaced at a higher cost per lane mile. Continue reading

Contact your city council representative about transparency in transportation planning.

30 Jun

In our recent series of bog posts about the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), we noted that the City Charter specifies certain steps to align the CIP with the Transportation Master Plan, and that we found no evidence that these steps are followed. To date, we have not received any information to change our assessment.

We believe the City should follow its own Charter and that the City Council should raise this issue as part of their review and approval of the 2018 CIP

In August, the City Council will review and approve the 2018-2023  (the 2018 CIP). This document will list the City’s transportation projects, the funds appropriated for 2017, and the funds budgeted for 2018-2023. There are 3 main process issues we hope the City Council considers before approving the CIP:

The Transparency Project: Part 5 – Who Selects the CIP Projects?

10 May

This is the fifth and final post from the Transparency series, following the steps of the Mode Shift CIP game board. We conclude our study of the City of Omaha’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP), with a look at these questions:

  • Who selects the CIP projects?
  • How are citizens engaged in the process?

City Charter and CIP Process

The CIP text quotes the City Charter and explains the process used to formulate the CIP:


Here is a summary of the differences between the process specified in the CIP and City Charter, and the actual process as we discovered in our analysis and after talking with many people working in City Hall:

City Charter and CIP Actual Process
The Planning Director ranks projects for alignment with the City’s Master Plan. The Planning Department has no records of any ranking.
Unranked projects will not be funded…unless the Planning Department fails to do the ranking. The Planning Department has no records of any ranking, so we assume the loophole is used every year.
There are several other mentions of the project ranking process and how it assures an unbiased, systematic selection process that aligns with the City Master Plans. The Planning Department has no records of any ranking.
“The Transportation Master Plan sets forth the vision and goals for the transportation network in Omaha” The Transportation Master Plan has been largely ignored and neglected.
The CIP formulation process has no provisions for public input. Unfortunately, this is true. Comments to City Council in January and February may make their way to the selection committee, but there is no formal process.

In short, the City Charter is not followed and the process is closed to the public. The City says one thing and does another in a process that is closed to the public.

The Transportation Master Plan

Continue reading