Omaha seeks long-term vision, short-term solutions for NW Radial Highway

The City of Omaha is seeking input on a long-term vision for the NW Radial Highway corridor.
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 10:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha City Council approved this week a study of the Northwest Radial Highway corridor -- a stretch riddled with blind spots. The city is working towards a vision that will improve safety and set it up in a way that supports the current and future needs of the businesses and neighborhood communities that call it home.

“This is a long stretch, it will analyze Cuming Street all the way up to NW Radial up to about 67th Street,” District 1 City Council member Pete Festersen said. “It is a state highway which is also a challenge to us, but anything we can do to make it safer... around that stretch is something I’m interested in doing.”

The stretch is about five miles, with multiple three-way intersections and increased traffic volume that has led to an increase in crashes, including a fatal one just last week.

“This study will evaluate crash data along the corridor, and develop high-level concepts and cost estimates for improvements to address crash patterns and other safety risk factors using the FHWA safe systems approach,” City Traffic Engineer Jeff Rieselman said. “Some concepts would include physical improvements to accommodate and enhance the access and safety of vulnerable road users on the corridor to comply with other local plans still in development including the Vision Zero Action Plan and Active Mobility Plan. The study would outline prioritization of projects along the corridor, develop high-level cost estimates, and identify potential funding sources including Federal Safety Funding and other applicable federal grants.”

“When you have a street that’s better designed and is a complete street, it’s also good for surrounding neighborhoods, economic development, and all those things,” Festersen said. “That is an interest here, too, but primarily I want to make sure we are addressing the safety issue because it has been a problem for a long time and we had another incident just yesterday.”

That’s music to Felicia Russell’s ears. She bought the building that’s home to her business in 2006 and has seen more than her share of crashes into and near her salon.

“One of the times someone hit this light and it came through the building and all these had to be replaced,” she said while showing some of the damage that has been repaired to the outside of her building. Inside, she has built and crafted a showplace for her customers but said she wants help from those who can deliver it to businesses like hers -- and that means now, not just down the road when a study is done.

Crump Cuts Barbershop has been open for about a year at 50th and NW Radial. The talk of the shop is once again, speed.

“People fly by, trucks, buses,” neighboring businessman Bill McCarthy said.

“Busy street, one of the busiest places around here,” barber Daron Wilson said.

“And there are times people are going 70 or 80 down the street,” McCarthy added.

McCarthy’s heat and air office has been at the same NW Radial location since 1999. He’s seen more than his share of damage to the building and neighboring lights and concrete walls. He even installed his own posts intending to protect his building from out-of-control speeders.

“I put four of ‘em out there last year and they got hit twice, that I know of.”

The reality: the study will likely be complete sometime in 2024. The work won’t likely begin until 2025, meaning a long-term vision will do little to make things safer along the highway in the interim.

“Maybe if they could do something to change the timing of the lights,” McCarthy said. “So they can’t get a four-block run at ya.”

Daron, meanwhile, said barber shop customers know where to park and that they do so safely, but along the highway, there are many areas where it is confusing to see where parking and lanes begin and end.

“Midtown, Downtown, they’re gonna have a parking line, that could help,” he said. “Or another set of lights in between.”

“There needs to be some way to cause them to slow down, not just by putting up a temporary sign that shows them how fast or slow they’re going,” Felicia Russell said. “OK, we see it for a week or two weeks, they put it up and it’s gone, and now it’s back to a road runner race.”