Omaha City Council Creates Complete Streets Policy
August 19th, 2015
Omaha residents will be able to get around the city easier in the future, regardless of how they decide to get around. KVNO News reports how a decision by Omaha City Council members yesterday will have an impact on commuters for years to come.
Omaha is now on a list of more than 700 cities with an official Complete Streets policy on the books.
Advocates say the new policy will make travel around the city both safer and more convenient for all residents, not just those in cars.
During their weekly meeting Tuesday, Omaha City Council members voted unanimously to amend the transportation element of the Cityâ€™s Master Plan, which means from now on, developers must account for the many ways people now travel in urban areas, including driving cars, riding a motorcycle or bicycle, walking or taking a bus.
Julie Harris of the Nebraska Bicycling Alliance applauded the Councilâ€™s decision.
â€œThis is not an unfunded mandate. It does not condemn any work weâ€™ve done previously. It merely creates a standard process,â€ Harris said, â€œTaking the time needed to assure that our roads are built for the safety of everyone in mind should never be viewed as a burden to our city. Things like bike lanes and connections to trails should not be considered special amenities or items relegated to a wish list that never see the light of day. With a system in place that moves people safely in a variety of ways, we can be a more efficient and healthier city.â€
Councilman Chris Jerram, speaking to the Complete Streets supporters at Tuesdayâ€™s meeting, said adopting the new policy is something to celebrate.
â€œIf you take a step back and remember, [Complete Streets] started in the budget process last year with the bicyclists who were rather unhappy with what was happening to the funding of a position in the city government. Out of that grew the active living council that the Mayor appointed, and this Complete Streets process. And we had the Administration on board, we had the Council on board, we had the Douglas County Health Department on board, and it produced here today consensus on how to move our community forward.â€
After council members took steps to prepare for future transportation, they made sure a part of Omahaâ€™s past will be there as well.
The council approved more than $2.4 million in tax increment financing (TIF) for the renovation of the old postal annex building at 10th and Mason Streets. The building anchors the Omaha Rail & Commerce Historic District, but itâ€™s sat vacant since the 1970â€™s.
Bridget Hadley with the City planning office told Council Members the building has also been in violation of city code since 1997, and is an eye sore in the community.
The TIF money will be used to off-set expenses related to things like architectural and engineering fees, demolition costs and public improvement.
Hadley said the project is a good use of TIF money for several reasons.
â€œ[Weâ€™re] restoring a historic building, bringing it back to life, helping to continue revitalization according to the downtown master plan and along 10th street,â€ Hadley explained, â€œItâ€™s been getting a lot of press; I believe we all know that.â€
After renovations of the old postal annex building are complete, it will have on site parking, an incubating space for up to 90 new businesses, a restaurant, and the building will be the new headquarters of Boyd Jones Construction, the developer on the project. The renovations are expected to be complete by late 2016.
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