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East, South bypasses missing from city's comp plan

East, South bypasses missing from city's comp plan

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The proposed transportation plan for Lincoln for the next 30 years is a much skinnier version of the same plan a decade ago.

The East Beltway is gone.

The South Beltway is gone, although it eventually might be revived by a state plan to divert sales tax revenue to road construction.

In fact, this year's proposed 2040 comprehensive plan is missing dozens of road projects.

And it's all about the money.

City planners and the task force working on the plan are trying to be realistic.

"The biggest difference is that this time we are required to be truthful about finances," said Dave Cary, a city planner.

Ten years ago, residents who worked on the 30-year comp plan wanted a transportation plan that would solve congestion and growth problems, no matter the cost.

So, the 2030 plan was more of a wish list.

The federal government has dictated transportation plans now be based on financial reality, Cary said.

Comp plan 2040 is based on an assumption the city will maintain a funding level of $50.375 million a year in city, state and federal funds for streets, sidewalks, bike trails and the bus system.

That's about $16 million a year less than planners believe the city needs.

Under the realistic scenario, there is no money for the East Beltway in the next 30 years, although the city will continue to buy rights of way to protect the corridor.

The city began discussing an east bypass 40 years ago. Maybe in another 50 years it will get done, task force member Roger Larson said at a recent task force meeting.

The 2030 comprehensive plan had 155 road projects. The 2040 comp plan proposal has 69 on the affordable list.

Finances also played a role in other transportation plan decisions, including earmarking more money for street maintenance, and less for widening and new construction and reducing the bus system's reach into new suburbs.

The proposed plan, the work of a 20-member task force with much public input, will move on to the Planning Commission this summer and to the City Council and Lancaster County Board for final approval this fall.

Streets

The city should change priorities, spend more money on street rehabilitation and less money on new construction, the task force concluded.

Now, $6.9 million a year goes for rehabilitation. That would move to $12 million a year, under the proposal.

In turn, the $18.1 million now spent on new construction would be cut to $12.375 million.

Without this change, the condition of the average city street will deteriorate from "good" to "poor" based on an analysis by city engineers and a consultant.

That means many roads would be like 56th Street, north of South Street, said Thomas Shafer, a city engineer.

Most of 48th Street is in good condition under a 4-point rating system that runs from very good to poor, said Shafer.

That's a big shift, said Cary. But feedback at meetings and online indicated people "strongly believe the city should maintain what we have first," he said.

The proposal provides information, lists and maps showing the difference between what likely will occur under current funding (constrained plan) and what the true needs are in each of the areas.

Constrained: $37.375 million.

Needs: $49 million

Trails

Total funding for trails remains the same, but the proposed plan recommends spending more on trail rehabilitation and less on new trails.

Many older trails need to be replaced, and some need to be widened from 8 feet to 12 feet, Cary said.

Constrained: $875,000

Needs: $1.424 million

Biking and walking

The city should increase funding for sidewalks and for street-related bike paths from about half a million to $1.125 million.

The bulk of that, about $1 million, would go for sidewalk rehabilitation.

The comprehensive plan recognizes most people still will use personal cars to get around, but more will be able to walk and bike, Cary said.

Constrained plan: $1.125 million a year

Needs: $3.2 million a year.

Bus system

Because of financial restraints, the draft comp plan recommends focusing on increasing bus routes in areas where there is more ridership and eliminating one route.

This more selective approach puts resources where the city can maximize ridership, according to Brian Prauener, transit planner.

Constrained budget: $11 million.

Needs: at least $13 million.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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