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(January 23, 2020)

Mayor Jean Stothert will ask the Omaha City Council to authorize a transportation bond issue to fund a long-term pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction program. The bond issue will be on the May 2020 ballot.

“Fixing the streets is fundamental to everything else,” said Mayor Stothert. “The condition of our streets is a top priority for me and for our taxpayers. Our streets have been underfunded for at least 50 years. We can stop the deterioration of our infrastructure but it will take all of us to agree it’s worth the expense. Our needs are greater than our revenue.”

Last year, Mayor Stothert consulted with a team of independent engineering experts to evaluate current street infrastructure and estimate the cost to develop the city’s first pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction program.

The evaluation showed the City should spend $75 million annually (5% of the value of the total street infrastructure of $1.5 billion) to resurface 250 lane miles of road.  Currently, the City spends approximately $41 million a year and resurfaces approximately 125 land miles. This results in an annual shortfall of $34 million.  With the recommended level of funding, every lane mile in Omaha could be resurfaced over the course of its 20-year average lifespan.

A $200 million transportation bond would raise $40 million each year for five years, enough to cover the shortfall. It would require a mill levy increase to pay the bond debt, equivalent to approximately $35 a year for the owner of a $100,000 house. This estimate is based on 2020 financial projections and it is anticipated the increase will be lower.

“A bond issue lets voters make the decision,” said Mayor Stothert.

Other options considered included an increase in the wheel tax, sales tax or property tax. Mayor Stothert will not support a tax increase that does not have voter approval.

There are approximately 5,000 lane miles of street in Omaha. Projects funded with bond revenue will include neighborhood and arterial streets in all seven City Council Districts.  The plan will also include additional funding for unimproved streets.  (see attached list and map)

THE BOND ISSUE WILL PAY FOR:

Street rehabilitation

Reconstruction and new construction

Residential asphalt resurfacing

Concrete streets and concrete panel replacement

Brick street repair

City budgets for the last ten years show the history of street resurfacing funding from a low of $2.8 million in 2010 to the current budget of $12.5 million.  Mayor Stothert has doubled the resurfacing budget since 2013.

2010: $2.8 million                          2016: $8.7 million                          

2011: $3.9 million                          2017: $10.7 million              

2012: $5.6 million                          2018: $11.7 million                        

2013: $6.6 million                          2019: $12.2 million 

2014: $6.9 million                          2020: $12.5 million

2015:  $7.3 million

 In the first six months of 2019, the City spent $13.25 million to repair approximately 67,000 potholes.  

“Potholes are a symptom of our aging infrastructure,” said Mayor Stothert. “A long-term funding solution will reduce annual repair costs but we have to make the financial commitment.  Without voter approval, we will continue to prioritize spending on road infrastructure, but we will never catch up and the funding gap will increase.”

The City Council must approve an ordinance to put the bond issue on the May 12 ballot.  The first reading will be on the January 28 agenda, a public hearing on February 4 and final reading and vote on February 11.  

In July 2019, Mayor Stothert, City Finance Director Steve Curtiss and city engineers developed “A Road Map to Better Streets”, including an examination of current and past funding and options for increased revenue.  The report has been presented at dozens of public meetings and is available on the city website. https://www.cityofomaha.org/images/pdf/Mayors_Road_Town_Hall-FINAL.pdf