Controversial street project in Omaha delayed, not stopped

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 8:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A controversial street project didn’t start as scheduled this week. But that’s just a short reprieve for dozens of trees standing in the way.

While construction equipment passes by, for now, the project to widen State Street is still moving forward, and some of the tree canopy remains on the chopping block.

“I just keep hoping they’re going to somehow change their mind,” said neighborhood resident Cody LeDent. “I’m hoping for a miracle, I know.”

The contractor has until Aug. 2 to start, and Douglas County Commissioner Mike Friend said that means more time for continued communication with the county engineer.

“Let’s talk about street calming devices,” Friend said. “Let’s talk about what the road is going to look like. Let’s talk about the access. Let’s talk about what trees are negotiable.”

The manager of Douglas County Engineering said the project consultant has been asked to draw up a plan to save some of the 55 trees and plant new ones along the six-block stretch. But all must be a safe distance from the three-lane roadway.

While dozens of historic trees will be lost in the project, one neighbor said his concern is about the future, and just safely getting out of his driveway.

Chad Brocker worries about faster traffic on a wider, three-lane street.

“We have young kids on bicycles, and we have a lot of brand-new 16-year-old drivers pulling in and out of here,” Brocker said. “I don’t want to see them get plowed over.”

The engineer said a four-way stop to the east isn’t the answer because that would cause more accidents and county liability. Traffic-calming and tree-saving are on the minds of neighbors.

“They can cut down some. I just want to say that,” Sharon LeDent said. “But is there any way they can leave a couple?”

State Street is no longer the country road that was built in 1879, and development slowly swallows history. But a new tweak to the widening project may save some trees and add many others. One county commissioner promised taxpayers that he’d monitor the project.

“I’d like to come out and see what the heck is going on and make sure someone isn’t going to try to tie themselves to a bulldozer or something like that,” Friend said.

The handful of homeowners affected most by the project will be getting letters with updated information about the plans.

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