Concerns raised over Omaha street car’s route intersecting with bike lanes

While we are still two years away from construction and four years away from riding a streetcar, it's an important step in getting contracts.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 5:30 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - We’re getting a better idea of the route for the Omaha streetcar.

But it’s not without controversy.

A study released Monday questions whether the decision-makers are moving too fast at the expense of the safety of bicyclists.

The route recommended by HDR and approved unanimously by the Streetcar Authority Monday afternoon has double tracks through Blackstone on Farnam all the way to Turner Boulevard.

That’s when the downtown tracks shift to Harney Street.

The downtown corridor will have a track up 10th Street to the CHI Health Center, angle around to Capitol Avenue and head to the riverfront before going back on Farnam to Blackstone.

We're getting a better idea tonight of the route for the Omaha streetcar. But it's not without controversy.

Things could change, but this is the pathway now.

It’s an important step considering the City’s going to start spending money on the project now.

Can streetcars and bicycles co-exist in Omaha? Some people have their doubts.

“One of the ways you avoid the danger is to make sure the infrastructure shapes the way cyclists cross the tracks, so they don’t end up crossing at shallow angles,” said Ryan Wishart with Creighton University.

Wishart unveiled a report today examining just that.

The environmental sociologist biked to City Hall to share his safety concerns with the Streetcar Authority.

“Our two key findings were a comparison of the Omaha bike network and streetcar route show over a dozen points of conflict, not just in the Harney market to midtown cycle track pilot.”

The chair of the Streetcar Authority, Jay Noddle, reminded everyone that this is early in the design phase and reiterated his commitment to bicyclists in the name of safety.

“The Omaha Streetcar Authority and Project Planning has always been committed to considering bicyclists and bike routes,” Noddle said.

Tuesday the City Council will consider how to move forward with the bike lane pilot project on Harney, and that will dictate the next steps for the Streetcar Authority.

There’s an amendment that asks for Public Works and the mayor to work with the groups on the route in conjunction with a streetcar and to figure out how to have a permanent bike lane where city dollars are committed to the project.