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Members of the 14-person committee formed to help the city decide how to spend money from Lincoln's newly approved sales tax for street repairs started their work Thursday by boarding a bus.

Before their inaugural meeting, the group joined Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird on a StarTran trolley bus and toured some city streets south of downtown and in west Lincoln that varied in age and quality.

"Get comfortable, because some of the streets we'll be on won't be," Assistant Director of Transportation Lonnie Burklund told the group as the bus took off.

Some had been repaired last week while another stretch hadn't been repaired since the 1970s. 

The group headed south down Goodhue Boulevard, drove A Street west, wound its way down to South Street and headed out into the West A neighborhood. 

They drove on newly repaired streets at Southwest Eighth and Ninth streets and minutes later on a different stretch of Eighth Street south of K Street that Burklund described as needing help.

At one point, someone yelled "yee-haw" as the bus drove over a particularly bumpy stretch.

Members of the group later convened in a conference room, introduced themselves and discussed their backgrounds, which included a mix of development and neighborhood interests. 

Shannon Harner, who heads HomeServices of Nebraska, and Mike DeKalb, a Lower Platte South Natural Resources District director and University Place Neighborhood Association board member, will lead the committee.

The group will recommend to Lincoln Transportation and Utilities which street improvement projects should be paid for with the new quarter-cent sales tax beginning in October. It adds 2.5 cents to a $10 purchase.

The city estimates that the sales tax will generate $13 million a year over its six-year lifespan.

About three of every 10 streets need rehabilitation work, where crews grind down the street and add new pavement on top. And just over one in every 10 streets needs replacing, according to the city.

Gaylor Baird has said she wants to recommend projects in all four quadrants of the city.

Several committee members said they want to make sure the city spends the money on projects that are in addition to the work paid for annually with funds from the $60 million transportation budget.

Jeanne McClure, a committee member, said she wants the money to be a "booster shot," helping the city perform more roadwork in this six-year stretch.

One complication of addressing street needs is the rising cost of construction.

That, Burklund said, means in some cases the department may have to recommend whether asphalt or concrete should be used as a fix in the paving projects.

At least a quarter of the money must be put toward new growth and 1.5 percent must go toward improvements to the 33rd Street and Cornhusker Highway project. 

The sales tax money can't be spent on bonding or bond payments, bike lanes, trails or sidewalks.

"This is us coming together as a team," Harner told the group.

She said she'll work to ensure this money is spent efficiently and responsibly but also that it balances the needs of the existing streets with the demands of growing portions of the city.

Everyone will have to partner together and compromise to determine the committee's priorities as this new resource is still limited, she said.

"We're going to have to explain to the community why and how we chose those priorities," Harner said.

Whatever they recommend will be the subject of a public hearing later this fall before the City Council ultimately adopts the project plan.

Work on these repairs is expected to start next spring.

The group will meet again later this month.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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