2018 Street Bond Vote, Part 1: What Projects Will Be Funded?

24 Apr

On May 15, 2018, Omaha voters will be asked to approve $151 million of Street And Highway Transportation Bonds (which we will refer to as “Street Bonds”). These bonds have been issued periodically following a vote as a “special issues” ticket. Here is the history:

Past Street Bond ISsues

The City will ask voters to approve the issue $151 million in street bonds on May 18, 2018

So taxpayers will be asked to approve an City expenditure of $151 million, plus interest, funded by property taxes (1), an amount more than triple the historical average.

The proposition is simple: Voters approve the bond issue, and in return the City uses the money to complete some transportation projects. For this to work, it is incumbent on the City to:

  1. Inform the voters what projects it plans to fund with the Street Bonds
  2. Report street bond expenditures and project progress
  3. Disclose how it selects the projects that receive Street Bonds

Without these three steps, voting for the Street Bond issue gives the City leave to use the funds without any accounting to the public. Mode Shift will publish a 3 part series of blogs to address each of these three steps.

In this blog, we’ll focus on the first and show that the City gets high marks thanks to the significant improvements to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Continue reading

Why 151 Million?

20 Apr

On May 15, 2018, Omaha voters will be asked to approve $151 million of Street And Highway Transportation Bonds (which we will refer to as “Street Bonds”). In return for this approval, the City commits to complete some transportation projects.

Mode Shift believes it is incumbent on the City to perform three steps:

  1. Inform the voters what projects it plans to build with the Street Bonds
  2. Account for Street Bond spending and the progress of the planned projects
  3. Disclose how it selects the projects that receive Street Bonds funding

Future Mode Shift blogs will address these points, but let’s start with a simple question.

Why $151 Million of Street Bonds?

Street Bonds have been issued periodically following a vote as a “special issues” ticket. Here is the history:

$ Amount of Omaha Street Bond Issue

The City will ask voters to approve the issue $151 million in Street Bonds (1)

So taxpayers will be asked to approve a City expenditure of $151 million, plus interest, funded by property taxes. This is more than triple the historical average. How does the City arrive at this number? In short:

  • The City plans to double its spending on transportation projects
  • The City forecasts a decrease in federal funds and a heavier reliance on Street Bonds

Continue reading

The ORBT Is Coming

19 Apr

BRT_website-1024x538

The Omaha Rapid Bus Transit (ORBT) team has been quiet as they wait for various approvals before communicating news of their design and schedule.

From all the early reports, we have cause to celebrate: not only did the ORBT team have the foresight to secure a federal grant, they also dealt with complex issues to deliver a significant improvement to Omaha’s transit network.

It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built the Ark

Omaha is fortunate to have a Metro Transit team with the foresight to plan ahead. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) implementations can fall into two broad categories:
BRT Implementations

Rather than wait until Omaha’s congestion floods the streets as in other major cities, the team secured in January 2015 a $15 million federal grant to implement Omaha’s BRT – which is now known as the ORBT. Continue reading