Blackstone business leaders propose plans to slow traffic

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For the first time, we’re now hearing about changes that may happen to the area while trying to make one of Omaha’s fastest-growing historic neighborhoods safer. Last month, a young woman broke 22 bones after being struck by an SUV in the Blackstone District.

When Farnam Street in Blackstone switched from a one-way street to a two-way street a few years ago, development took off. Customers flocked to the businesses, from restaurants and bars to ice cream and coffee shops.

Now the neighborhood is trying to figure out how to slow down drivers and how to safely mix pedestrians with the traffic.

“Luckily no one has been hit again. There are close calls every night,” said Chad Shoeman, owner of Blackstone Bar 39.

Chad Shoeman owns several bars in the Blackstone District. Since early June, business owners have been shining a brighter spotlight on the need to slow down traffic.

“It looks like Frogger out there. People are dodging and running in between traffic and you hear the horns going. Somebody whips out for an Uber and there are people running out in front,” said Shoeman.

“If you want to go fast, get on the interstate,” said Matt Oberst with the Blackstone Improvement District.

Matt Oberst is with the Blackstone Improvement District. Its proposed improvements would eliminate one lane of traffic, making the middle lanes a turn lane.

By narrowing the parking spots and traffic lanes by a foot each, the sidewalks would get wider by about two and a half feet.

“One of the best ways to slow traffic down, as a nationally recognized way, is to narrow the traffic lanes. And to give the real estate back to the sidewalks, we accomplish that goal,” said Oberst.

Some business owners would still like to see more traffic signals like in Benson, or crosswalks that really get your attention like in Papillion. Those would likely be the city of Omaha’s decisions.

Blackstone leaders say it’s doing the best with what it can control.

“In life, there are very few guarantees. We feel good about the plan,” said Oberst.

The Blackstone Improvement District is also proposing a canopy of lights from 39th to 40th, creating a postcard moment for visitors. Added lights that could create a visual for drivers to slow down.

They also plan to share more detailed proposals Tuesday night at the Cottonwood Hotel at 6 p.m.

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