Tag Archives: transportation master plan

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

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51st & Mayberry Smart Development Moving Forward

5 Feb

Bluestone Development is planning its largest new development northwest of 51st & Mayberry. At this site, Bluestone proposes to build three buildings containing 193 market-rate apartments. All but 35 parking spaces will be built inside the enclosed property space. Providing market-rate housing for young professionals in an area that is often difficult to access is the goal for the project.

At the Omaha Planning Board meeting on Wednesday, February 3rd, Mode Shift Omaha’s new Program Coordinator, Michaela Brown, stated our strong support for Bluestone’s plans at 51st and Mayberry. The board voted 7-0 in support of the plans.

Smart Growth Details

An important component of Mode Shift Omaha’s advocacy is promoting land use policies that allow for denser development, which makes active and public transportation a more likely and more enjoyable choice. Mode Shift Omaha views the 51st & Mayberry project as sensitive, appropriate infill development in a neighborhood that is zoned to allow as much.

The waivers Bluestone Development is seeking are driven by minimum parking requirements that are seen by most sophisticated growing cities as hindrances to walkable development. We applaud Bluestone and the City for finding a public/private solution wherein the project is not over-building parking.

Traffic engineers said that although the future level of service at 51st and Leavenworth would sink at peak afternoon travel times, many Omaha intersections are at the same level at peak times.

51st & Mayberry mock upOther reasons to be excited about these smart growth plans include: the proposed site is adjacent to the 20-mile bike loop and within a block of transit and the property is zoned R8, which allows for an even larger development than they’re planning. Note: It’s adjacent to the 22-story Elmwood Tower.

Finally, this project aligns with several planning documents within the city, such as the Environmental Element (which calls for increased density), the Transportation Master Plan (which calls for improved access to transit), and the city’s newly adopted Infill Guidelines (which pave the way for sensitive, appropriate infill such as this).

Now the issue goes to the City Council.

The Opposition

About 20 neighbors attended the Planning Board meeting to oppose the project. The neighbors asked the Planning Board to delay the vote to allow them more time to share their opinions with Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development.

Larry Jobeun, a Bluestone lawyer, stated at the Planning Board meeting that Christensen has already attended several meetings with the neighbors and made multiple compromises on the project – on the building height, total number of apartments, parking, and design materials.

The neighbors also wanted an extension on the Planning Board’s decision so they could perform an independent traffic study to verify the study done by the traffic engineers hired by Bluestone.

What’s Next

The City Council must approve the project. We need your support to secure the vote for smart infill development in Omaha that would lead toward increased active transportation. We will keep you informed of when the Council will hear the case and advise on purposeful next steps.

Act Now on LB 1071

24 Feb

bike-lightThe Transportation and Telecommunications Committee is planning to hold a hearing this Tuesday for LB 1071. Please send an email NOW to the members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, expressing your support—to Chair, Senator Dubas and to Omaha-area Senators on the Committee: Beau McCoy (Elkhorn, far west Omaha), John Murante (SW Omaha, Gretna), and Jim Smith (LaVista, Papillion). Please check this map to see the detailed district boundaries. Several people from Omaha and Lincoln are also planning to testify on Tuesday. If you’d like to join them, please contact Mike Abboud.

This bill, sponsored by Senator Lathrop of Omaha, would task the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) with creating standards for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and would also more clearly define a person on a bicycle’s rights to the right of way; that is, “…a person lawfully operating a bicycle on a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.” Currently, there is no specific guidance on how to handle bicyclists in those situations.

By adopting standards at the state level, this bill would support the recently-created Traffic Signal Master Plan that was adopted by the City of Omaha in October, 2013. That plan states:

The increase in the use of bicycles both in mixed traffic and on exclusive bicycle facilities may create safety and/or operational issues that could be mitigated with better bicycle detection. The City should implement the detection for bicycles on corridors with bicycle lanes or corridors with high volumes of bicycle traffic. (p. 53)

Of course, these standards would also support the goals outlined in the Transportation and Environmental Elements of the City of Omaha Master Plan and implementation and expansion of the yet-to-be-fully implemented 20 mile bike loop.

LB 1071 would also give NDOR the opportunity to expand standards currently in place for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. National guidelines for “uniform standards for signage and signals” have already been created by NACTO and AASHTO, and in fact, they have been recently updated to include specifications for protected bike lanes and other infrastructure that have been proven to be effective for achieving physical safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. We encourage NDOR to adopt these standards.

Information currently indicates the City of Lincoln will be testifying in support of this bill. Lincoln has already adopted a complete streets policy and this bill would support that policy. Omaha does not yet have a complete streets policy; however, given the goals of the traffic signal and transportation master plans, it would make sense for the City of Omaha to also support this bill. We encourage the City of Omaha to do so.

See more information about the bill from BicycLincoln here. Also on the agenda tomorrow is LB 756, which would help define e-Bikes.