Mayor Chris Beutler today announced a plan to invest nearly $7 million dollars to repair City streets and sidewalks without raising taxes or shifting funds from other programs. About $4 million for sidewalk repair would be generated by issuing "certificates of participation," a funding mechanism similar to bonds. Additional residential street rehabilitation would be funded by an unexpected $3 million increase in the City's share of State gas tax. Repair and maintenance of sidewalks and streets was identified as a top priority by the recent Taking Charge public engagement process.
"Street rehabilitation and sidewalk repair aren't glamorous, but as the Taking Charge participants reminded us, maintenance and upkeep are the most fundamental of City Hall's responsibilities," said Mayor Beutler. "This $7 million booster shot of infrastructure funding allows us to solve our worst street and sidewalk problems while we work with the community on a more comprehensive, big-picture plan for infrastructure funding."
The City currently uses certificates of participation to fund the street light program. Some of the oldest and largest of the street light certificates will be paid off in about two years. The funds that would have gone to debt service will be available for the sidewalk repair.
"Four million dollars allows us to immediately tackle our most dangerous sidewalks with heaves and separations of two inches or more," Beutler said. "The City has identified approximately 1,400 of these locations that could be fixed with an infusion of $2.1 to $2.5 million. The additional $1.5 to $1.9 million will be used to repair another 1,100 to 1,400 locations, removing nearly 3,000 problem sidewalks from the City's list."
The Mayor said certificates of participation would also be used to build additional high-speed telecommunications fiber throughout the community. "Using expiring debt service payments to fund additional fiber improvements will help us build on our success and meet community demand for competitive broadband services," he said.
The City received $19 million in State gas tax funds instead of the projected $16 million. The Mayor said the additional funding will allow the City to fix an additional 87 residential streets over the next year, bringing the total to 163.
"We chose neighborhood rehabilitation for two reasons - it's the priority we heard from citizens in the Taking Charge process, and it's where you get the biggest bang for your infrastructure buck," Beutler said. "2.7 million pays for nine miles of residential rehabilitation versus only a half mile of new street construction."
The Mayor said the plans announced today are the first step in developing a strategic plan for funding transportation infrastructure. He plans to propose a comprehensive long-term plan by next spring.
Survey results and more information on the Taking Charge process are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: taking charge).