Lincoln Boulevard workshop addresses traffic concerns

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Questions were asked by the public and survey results were revealed during Tuesday night’s Lincoln Boulevard Improvements Project community workshop. With the Highway 65 bypass nearing completion this spring, the stretch of Highway 65 from Sterling Parkway to Seventh Street will be renamed Lincoln Boulevard and be relinquished to the city of Lincoln, according to a city brochure handed out during the workshop. “It’s a pleasure for me to sharing the goals of this project,” said the city of Lincoln’s public services director Mark Miller to the 35-plus audience members. “We want to define a real sense of place for downtown.” The project will improve signal traffic timing, promote pedestrian access and promote alternative modes of transportation, including bicycles and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, according to Miller. Project manager Mark Brogan of Mark Thomas and Company gave the audience a summary of the project’s phases and costs. Mark Thomas and Company was hired by the city “to develop street improvements and associated landscape design to improve the traffic operations for all modes of traffic,” according to the brochure. Brogan said the project would be done in four phases for a grand total of $14 million. Money used for the Lincoln Boulevard Improvements Project is all grant-funded, according to Miller. The first phase of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2013 and finish in spring of 2014, according to Brogan, and will cost $3.5 million. Work done during the first phase would be improvements to traffic signal timing, streetscape improvements and the addition of Neighborhood Electric Vehicle lanes, according to Brogan. Future phases of the project “depend on construction dollars received,” Brogan said. The city has applied for $10 million in state funding through the TIGER III grant, according to Miller. Gladys Cornell, of AIM consulting, presented results from an online survey seeking input from community members about the project. Cornell said 700 surveys were filled out. Of those surveyed, Cornell said, 63 percent “prefer a safer, more accessible pedestrian environment,” and 69 percent “valued the historic downtown physical characteristics.” As far as concerns about downtown, 66 percent of those said there is “nowhere to sit and relax,” according to Cornell, and that “sidewalks are not connected.” Brogan and Miller fielded questions from the audience during the workshop. One audience member wanted to know what was being done to account for costs of maintaining landscaping and infrastructure once the project is completed. “Our design team is including maintainability,” Miller said. “We will address that by making it cost effective and maintainable.” Another audience member wanted to know if large trucks would be diverted from Lincoln Boulevard (G Street), including logging trucks. “The law says, if it’s a local delivery, we can’t prohibit them,” Miller said. “The logging trucks going to Sierra Pacific Industries have to get there and we are looking at alternative routes.” One audience member asked about the possibility of a “one-way corridor” in downtown Lincoln. “One-ways tend to move a lot of traffic but don’t do much for pedestrian circulation,” Miller said. “We will do what is best. Once the bypass is open, we will study the way traffic goes.” Buzz Ronglien, the Lincoln Hills Neighborhood Electric Vehicles Club president, described the project as “beneficial.” “I think it will help mitigate air quality problems,” Ronglien said. “It will allow NEVs on Lincoln Boulevard and so there should be more NEV traffic downtown.” Donna Rasch, a Lincoln resident, said she doesn’t visit downtown “often,” but after the improvements are done, “may come downtown more.” Randy Johnson, Lincoln Gun Exchange co-owner, described the workshop as “excellent” but wanted the work to get started sooner. “The biggest disappointment is the time frame,” Johnson said. “We all want (the project) to get started.”