Mayor Chris Beutler today said a plan to delay the street project at 14th Street, Warlick Blvd. and Old Cheney Road will increase traffic problems, delay safety improvements and waste money. He also said City Council member Cyndi Lamm's budget proposal to move the project back five years is based on non-existent information.
"The proposal to delay or even suspend the project is a serious attack on our responsibility to deliver safer, less congested streets to Lincoln residents and businesses as cost effectively as possible," Mayor Beutler said. "It doesn't make sense for Lincoln, and I urge the City Council to reject the plan if it is brought before them again in the coming weeks. Let's not stand in the way of growth and progress."
Because of the growth in southwest Lincoln over the last 10 years, more than 40,000 cars now travel through multiple intersections in the project area every day. By 2045, that number is expected to increase to more than 65,000 cars per day. Private sector traffic studies show that even with the opening of the South Beltway, cumulative traffic volumes in the area will increase 40 percent by 2045. The project is scheduled to begin in 2020 and will improve seven intersections, cover more than seven lane-miles of streets, add three bridges, install or repair 8,200 feet of sidewalk, connect 4,900 feet of trails and create three pedestrian under-crossings.
"This is a serious public safety issue," Beutler said. "The current intersections no longer satisfy urban design standards. In the last five years, more than 170 crashes have occurred in the area. The new design will cut the chances of crashes in half and drastically reduce severe crashes. With Southwest High School just down the street, it is imperative this key intersection be made as safe as possible."
The current estimated cost of the project is $30 million. The project is expected to generate more than $6 of benefit for each $1 invested. With construction inflation averaging 5 percent a year, a delay of five years would add about $8 million to the price tag.
Lamm said a State traffic study showed that the project would be unnecessary once the South Beltway opened. Beutler said there is no study that reaches that conclusion.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation concept for the South Beltway retains Warlick Boulevard as a primary corridor into southwest Lincoln.
The project design was the result of a 2012 competition involving three teams. The City announced the winning concept in 2015. Those who live, work, own property, worship and play in the project area were directly involved in the design process.
With the City growing in all directions, Beutler said Lamm's proposal is also unfair to southwest Lincoln residents.
"This project has been 20 years in the making, and it is unfair to shift these funds to other projects and other parts of the community," Beutler said. "Past State and City leaders promised this improvement to southwest Lincoln residents and businesses. It has been approved by the Planning Commission and City Council. We've been saving the funding for years. It's unacceptable that we are here discussing whether we keep that promise. I have no intention of breaking that promise, and I don't think other Council members do either."
The project includes improvements on four road segments:
More information on the project, including a traffic simulation of how the intersection will function is available at 14thOldCheney.com.