Work crews replace brick streets throughout Omaha

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - There are 45 miles of brick streets in Omaha and some will be rebuilt this year.

Fixing those brick roads keeps a piece of Omaha history in place. Back in the day traffic in Omaha rolled over brick streets.

But bricks were not the first material used to cover our roads. Wooden blocks were actually used to make the streets.

“The woodblocks were really nice because they were cheap, but they were solid and they issues with people stealing them, so they would steal so they could burn it in their homes,” said Natalie Kammerer.

Natalie Kammerer is with the Douglas County Historical Society she tells 6 News brick became one of the major materials used to pave Omaha streets between the 1880s and early 1900s, but there were several small contractors that worked on different streets, all using their own combination of materials.

“So one guy might get cheap brick one year and use it while another guy preferred to use the stone because he had a connection somewhere so it just depended on what street you were on who got the contract and it was just like a hodgepodge for a long time.”

Now more than 100 years later Dylan Owen is one of the workers putting that hodgepodge back together one brick at a time.

“Takes a lot of eyeballing lot of fixing like we have big gaps in our bricks we’ll have to cut those in with a saw we’ll have to cut the bricks down so they fit in those little slivers, it’s a lot of work,” said Owen.

Dylan is with DMS, he says rebuilding a brick street is like putting a puzzle together with very heavy pieces.

“Oh yeah a lot of physical work for sure, throwing bricks, smashing your fingers, it’s a lot,” said Owen.

Austin Rowser is the capitol construction and street maintenance engineer for the City of Omaha. He says it’s not the brick wearing down that forces the repair.

“It’s usually the subgrade that’s bad or if there are a lot of patches in it, of the utilities come in and cut in the past we put back concrete or asphalt we want to get that out and make the brick whole again for the segments we’re working on,” said Rowser.

Omaha has about 45 miles of brick streets. This year the city is working in neighborhoods spending more money to get those brick streets repaired.

“It started out around $300,000 now we’re up to $600,000 that we have annually to repair the streets,” said Rowser.

Some of the bricks used to repair our streets are more than 100 years old.

“It’s obviously very durable the brick projects that we do we don’t buy new bricks we reuse the bricks that we have in inventory. We’ve got enough inventory to manage the program,” said Rowser.

Brick streets can be a major part of a neighborhood’s character. The bricks that make up the streets in one of Omaha’s major tourist attractions get plenty of attention from work crews.

“Obviously starting with the Old Market there’s that historical component and community character we’re trying to maintain in those areas with the brick streets and I know the neighborhoods really like having those streets around,” said Rowser.

These brick streets are a part of Omaha history and the guys working to repair these historic streets are well aware of that.

“For the whole historical thing is the whole reason they do the bricks it’s pretty cool to be a part of that putting in these bricks that are hundreds of years old.”

According to city officials in the first 18 months of the city’s $200 million bond issue to repair Omaha streets.

More than $80 million has been spent on concrete replacement, asphalt resurfacing, and brick street restoration for a total of 506 lane miles.

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