Safety concerns growing for first responders in expanding Gretna area

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 10:27 PM CST
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GRETNA, Neb. (WOWT) - There’s a new fire station to provide protection for the booming Gretna area, but first responders could use some safety improvements when heading into an emergency.

Gretna Fire’s station doors first opened about two months ago, taking first responders in a new direction that may leave them in the dark.

“You’re thinking ok I can’t see anything out my left side. This is a bad one for us now,” said Gretna EMT Dan Whitted. “You can see a silhouette, but if you’re in a hurry and your blood is flowing...”

The highway and Capehart Rd. intersection doesn’t yet have street lights and while drivers should see emergency vehicles coming, Whitted wonders why not just improve visibility.

“Like these medians right here are tough to see in the dark when you’re trying to make this left-hand turn right here,” the EMT said.

As of now, street lights are planned but they’re planned to be installed at the same time as the traffic signals — which is in about a year and a half.

First responders answering an emergency call in Gretna are forced to turn onto a four-lane highway and the speed limit on Highway 31 is 55 mph.

In response, Gretna’s Chief Rod Buethe would like the fire station warning signs posted on both sides of the highway.

“They would know there’s a fire station up here,” Chief Buethe said. “When you come from the north you can’t see this building at all, there’s a hill down at the bottom.”

The district engineer replied by mail that the state won’t place signs for fire stations not right next to the highway. But says he will research with traffic engineering if there is anything the Nebraska Department of Transportation can provide.

“I would like to see anything that encourages the folks here who are operating the emergency vehicles to have that assurance and surety that it’s a little safer,” said Paula Dennison, Gretna City Administrator.

Fire station signs are a seemingly quick and cheaper safety measure but the city administrator will also ask the state to approve street light before the stoplights are installed in 2023.

“The city can push as hard as we want to but final approval comes from the Department of Transportation because it’s a state highway,” said Dennison.

“It’s dark, really dark, and street lights will gravely help,” said Whitted.

The city of Gretna will pay an estimated $700,000 for the traffic signals scheduled to be installed in late 2023. Developers will then reimburse the city as housing areas spring up in the area.

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