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South 13th Street paint

Paint that marked the lanes on South 13th Street after it was converted from four lanes to three lanes with bike lanes has faded, but the city plans to repaint it with a more-durable product when the weather is warmer.

The paint used on South 13th Street to mark the new lanes and bike path has been fading for months.

Even at the beginning it was hard to tell where to go because the old lines — where the city scraped off old paint — were so noticeable, said Cassey Lottman, who lives and works in the area.

But when the snow melted off the street last week, the paint creating the new three-lane configuration was barely visible. 

“It’s really bad,” said Lottman, who is also running for the City Council District 4 seat this spring.

The paint job lasted just more than four months on the controversial project that the Lincoln Independent Business Association criticized as a war on cars and dozens of supportive neighbors praised as a necessary safety project for a dangerous street. 

The city intentionally used a less-durable product on the project just in case the new configuration — three lanes plus bike lanes — didn’t work.

The city used paint, rather than a more-durable marking product, so "they could monitor the performance of the conversion. We wanted to make sure the conversion was optimal,” said Mark Lutjeharms, manager of traffic engineering for the city.

And because of the unusually bad winter weather, the paint faded more quickly than normal, he said.

The city converted a 1-mile stretch of 13th Street from South Street to Lincoln Mall from four lanes to three lanes — one northbound, one southbound and a center turn lane. The plan also included bike lanes in both directions and rapid-flashing beacons for pedestrians at the D and F street crosswalks.

Engineers said the new configuration would be safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles. Opponents, including LIBA, said it would create more traffic jams and crashes.

Staff had told City Council members who were leery of the project, called a "road diet," that they could change the lane markings back easily if the conversion project didn’t work.

But it has worked very well, according to Lutjeharms. There have been few crashes since the new configuration was implemented in late October.

For safety thus far, it’s been "overwhelmingly successful," he said.

There have also been few driver complaints or negative public comments since the early transition period, Lutjeharms said. 

The city will use a more-durable product this spring, when the air temperature is at least 50 degrees and the pavement is dry.

“It’s No. 1 on our priority list,” Lutjeharms said in a telephone interview last week.

Lottman said she was crushed when she learned the city had used a less-durable product.

“It feels like a betrayal,” she said.

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Getting council approval for the conversion from four to three lanes, despite strong objections from LIBA, felt like such a big win, she said.

Then to find out the city used paint that would fade quickly just in case the idea failed was a blow.

“The whole project was supposed to be about safety. And now there is a really dangerous situation where drivers can’t tell where the lanes are supposed to be," she said.

If the city had implemented the project as it was supposed to be, it would be a lot safer now, she said.

The three-lane plan was targeted by City Councilman Roy Christensen, who introduced a resolution that would have kept 13th Street four lanes in that area. 

But the council unanimously approved the three-lane configuration after 30 people testified in support at a City Council meeting in late August.

The less-durable paint, such as that used on 13th Street, generally must be repainted twice a year. The more-durable marking material typically lasts two to three years in Lincoln but costs much more, Lutjeharms said.

The city spent about $9,500 putting in the new lane markings in October. It expects it will cost about $75,000 for the longer-lasting durable material, he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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