Mayor Chris Beutler said Wednesday that his proposed 2016-2018 City budget seeks to continue Lincoln's aggressive rate of infrastructure and transportation growth. Beutler began outlining his budget priorities in the first of three presentations. Beutler will discuss budget plans regarding public safety on Thursday, July 7 and will present the budget to the City Council on Monday, July 11.
Beutler said City investment in streets has increased by 58 percent since 2010. Improvements have been made to 72.2 miles of arterials and 487 blocks of residential streets during the past six years. Projects include South 56th, Northwest 48th, Old Cheney, North 84th, North 33rd, Capital Parkway, Sheridan Boulevard, Southwest 40th and 98th Street.
"A safe and efficient transportation system is critical to a thriving community," Beutler said. "At a time when federal transportation revenues fell flat and were uncertain, we worked hard to increase local and state funding for streets and those efforts are paying off."
Beutler's proposed budget continues the record-setting pace of street investment with $56.2 million in 2016-2017 for street projects critical for traffic safety, efficiency and economic growth. Beutler said that a top priority in the proposed budget is to completely fund the local portion of revenue required for the South Beltway, which is designed to relieve traffic pressure on Highway 2 and increase safety for a growing city.
In addition to the South Beltway, $15.5 million will be spent on arterial construction and improvements and $5.4 million will be spent on residential improvements over the next two years, more than ever before.
"Our strong street investment is due in part to the State Legislature's passage of LB 610, which will provide $1.3 million in additional funding for 2016-17 budget and $2.3 million for 2017-18, Beutler said.
Beutler said that new revenue has helped advance design and construction planning on several upcoming projects such as:
Beutler added that his budget also re-assigns three employees and utilizes new technology to implement the Green Light Program, which allows engineers to manage traffic in real time and better coordinate and improve traffic signal timing.
Beutler said that following a study commissioned last year to identify ways to improve Star Tran, the City Council adopted a number of changes scheduled to go into effect starting this fall. The changes were revenue neutral and several Council members and many in the rider community felt strongly that the City should also implement additional improvements recommended in the report, known as Phase 1.
To implement that phase, the proposed budget includes five new bus drivers. Beutler said that the new drivers will allow later service on the South 13th, North 27th, Havelock, O Street, Arnold Heights, and South Pointe routes. South 13th and North 27th will also see more frequent bus arrivals. Under the proposed budget, two additional Star Tran drivers and one supervisor would also be added to reduce overtime costs, Beutler said.
"The changes will help us provide a more complete bus system that better meets the needs of a growing community," Beutler said. "It will bolster employment for those who do not work 8-to-5 and need later bus hours to hold a job. Waits for buses will be shorter, encouraging more people to use Star Tran for shopping, medical appointments, and school," he added.
Water and Wastewater
Extending water and wastewater service and replacing water and wastewater mains remain critical to continued City growth, Beutler said. Public Works and Utilities continues to expand service into the Stevens Creek basin and other new growth areas using new funding for sanitary sewer trunk lines and increased capacity at the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant. These investments will allow the City to continue eastward growth, Beutler said.
"Replacement water mains help us attract redevelopment dollars to established areas of Lincoln. New water and wastewater service allows entrepreneurs to drive the new construction that is so important to our economy," he said.
The new CIP calls for increasing the pace of water main replacement from 5.5 miles per year to 7 miles per year, which is a 27 percent increase. Three new water employees would be added to the budget to accomplish the accelerated pace.
"A growing community is a community that invests in infrastructure," Beutler said. "The budget I will offer this week devotes more resources than ever before to transportation and water and wastewater infrastructure. It is the right investment at the right time to continue Lincoln's amazing record of economic success and strong, revitalized neighborhoods."