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Old Cheney roundabout

An illustration shows the latest design for an elevated roundabout (looking northeast) at the intersection of 14th Street, Old Cheney Road and Warlick Boulevard in southwest Lincoln.

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities officials will likely delay the city's request for bids to build the controversial elevated roundabout near 14th Street and Warlick Boulevard, interim director Tom Casady said Monday.

Department staff had planned to request proposals from contractors beginning Oct. 18.

But Councilman Richard Meginnis' proposed ordinance seeking to delay the $36 million project and repurpose its funding raised concerns with the timeline, Casady said.

A public hearing on that ordinance is scheduled for Oct. 21.

"I can’t in good faith put those bids out and ask contractors to spend the time and the effort and the money to continue to prepare their bids when we have no idea whether we will actually be accepting bids if they come in within our budget," Casady told the City Council.

City transportation officials during former Mayor Chris Beutler's administration settled on an elevated roundabout above a T-intersection as a solution to the traffic congestion in the area. 

Last week, Meginnis, who represents southeast Lincoln, proposed delaying its construction after hearing about the plan to seek bids this month and a rumor about a potential petition drive to try to block the project. 

He wants to hold a public hearing on the seven-intersection transformation, in part because he had a lot of questions on whether the city should undertake the nine-phase construction effort while the state builds the South Beltway. 

If the council approves Meginnis' ordinance, it would redirect $19.4 million in planned funding for the roundabout to the city's street improvement fund over the next three years.

Monday, Council Chair Jane Raybould, who represents the district where the intersection lies, sought to delay consideration of Meginnis' ordinance until after bids came back in December. 

"(Then) we'll have a better idea and understanding of the costs of this project," Raybould said. 

But all of Raybould's colleagues on the council shot down her attempt to delay consideration of the ordinance. 

"The public needs to be present and hear this discussion, and that's why, traditionally, the City Council handles these issues by first having the public hearing and then voting on a delay, if we're going to do that," Councilman Roy Christensen told the council.

After the meeting, Meginnis said he believes holding a public hearing on a possible delay is in the best interest of transparency.

Meanwhile, local utility crews are still working in the area to relocate lines in anticipation of the project moving forward, and city staff were in the middle of buying the rights of way needed to build it, Thomas Shafer of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities told the council.

The intersection transformation has previously been approved by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission and the City Council, and city and state leaders have previously promised improvements at the crossing. 

Efforts to reconfigure traffic flow in the area began in 2000, and easing the congestion there has been studied several times, Shafer said.

"Nothing has been brief with this project," he said.

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

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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