Life In The Slow Lane

Thousands of west Omaha commuters have spent months in traffic jams around 168th and Pacific. The road is being widened and the construction will likely continue through the end of summer.

It's not a good sign when you can walk as fast as your car is moving on a major road and that's what thousands of commuters have been putting up with for months.

Dale waits behind the wheel for traffic to move and tells us, "I'm going to call my AARP guy because I'll probably retire before I get through here."

Before the construction started last spring, there were similar problems. A two-lane road squeezed rush-hour traffic into jam after jam.

Randy tells us, "This is worse."

Some have wondered whether a temporary signal instead of a four-way stop at the intersection would move traffic along better until the widening project is complete.

The Omaha public works director says it would probably be worse since the intersection isn't wide enough to handle a left turn lane.

Other intersections under construction where the city has had lights and a no-left turn in effect proved ineffective because many drivers held up traffic anyway by ignoring the no-left turn sign.

Nonetheless, patience is running thin.

Betty Feltman was caught off guard and said, "I usually don't come here at this time. I'm not usually in this."

Austin Bieber is new to the area and has dealt with the congestion since day one.

"It's annoying," he says. "It's been like this since we moved to the neighborhood."

According to the city, the contractor, Vrana, is on schedule and asks that we reserve judgment until the project is finished in late summer or early fall. That would actually be ahead of schedule.

Delays in road construction projects last year eventually spawned a task force to expedite work but the 168th and Pacific project isn't a part of that.

Another project, along 144th Street between F and Q will be in the task force mix. It goes out for bids next month and the public works director says 80-percent of it will include the task force recommendations. The only thing excluded is that utilities didn't get two years to pre-plan.


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