Speed Zapper: Why A Traffic Light Won't Be Coming To Benson

A few minutes is all it took to find drivers speeding on Maple Street in Benson. A business owner contacted the WOWT 6 News Speed Zapper crew, in early April, complaining of high speeds that, he said, had led to crashes in his parking lot. In just a matter of minutes the Speed Zapper crew spotted driving as fast as 48 miles per hour -- that's 18 miles per hour over the limit.

"It's very dangerous," said Fred Walden. "I know the local people have complained about taking that traffic light out."

The traffic light Walden referred to used to be at 66th and Maple, about two blocks from his business. Before it was removed it was the only traffic light between 63rd and 72nd Street on Maple. Those who complain about the speed think that the light at 66th helped the community.

The light was removed in 2008 despite protests from people who live in the neighborhood and school employees of Benson West Elementary. A traffic light was placed at the intersection after a child was struck and killed years earlier. The light was removed because the city was making sidewalk improvements to bring them in line with ADA standards. It was determined that the light would be expensive to replace, and in fact, wasn't warranted per Omaha's law.

"A lot of things, not everything, but a lot of things we do are based on our liability exposure," explained Todd Pfitzer, an Omaha city engineer.

According to Pfitzer, the traffic light never met the city's standards for installing a light. Omaha's law requires a traffic light at an intersection if it meets any of it's nine criteria. 66th and Maple never met those standards, but was pushed by politicians in the wake of a deadly accident years prior. If the city replaced the traffic light and a traffic accident happened now, it could leave the city on the hook for a lawsuit.

"If we put that light back we could be potentially liable because we put in a light which is not warranted," said Pfitzer.

Recent traffic studies done in the area don't indicate a change will occur anytime soon. Pfitzer points out that since Benson is already developed it's unlikely to see a fluctuation in traffic in the future.

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