Raised median splits city with 168th Street homeowners

Neighbors are split with the city over a raised median that's planned for the new wider 168th Street.
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s not the construction of four lanes -- but a raised median down the middle that has left the city and several South 168th Street homeowners divided.

“I want to go both directions, they don’t want to go one direction and then have to transit around the neighborhood,” said homeowner Joe Dizona.

“Somebody is going to get seriously injured making a U-turn at one of these things,” said homeowner Tom Trueblood. “I don’t know, I think it can be done differently.”

The planned raised median will force right turns only out of eight driveways, and no left turns in.

“One of the issues is the street is going to be wider, and if they’re making a left turn coming out of one of those driveways, they have a greater distance to cross, which takes longer,” said Austin Rowser with Omaha city maintenance. “With sight distance and everything else, it’s just a more hazardous situation.”

But homeowners say a raised median will make it less safe for them. Omaha city engineers say Omaha Fire has procedures for traversing medians without losing response time, but it’s non-emergency vehicles that will be forced to maneuver the most.

“The FedExes and the repair people, to be able to find these driveways and to avoid doing a U-Turn.”

So homeowners suggest a painted median instead that they could turn across and go either direction.

“We just painted lines, and then just to the north of the last house, they can put their concrete median in so we can all function properly,” said homeowner Rick Marasco.

“Painting tends to be ignored at times, so a physical barrier is the best way to make sure you’re keeping people safe and keeping that access control where it should be,” Rowser said.

Homeowners claim it’s too much control over their daily lives -- but that left turn across a wider 168th Street will be blocked come September of 2024.

With that raised median, homeowners will have to go north to turn and go south. Will they have a decision to make on whether to make a U-turn here? Right now, signage says no.

So they say to go south on 168th from their homes will mean driving down, and around and through a neighborhood. Even getting to the mailbox just across the street will be a journey.

Despite the inconvenience for eight homeowners, the city says safety lands on an island.

The project runs $32 million. Of that, city taxpayers pay 20%, or $6 million. Federal funds make up the remaining $26 million.