Keeping an eye on potentially dangerous sidewalks around Omaha

City encourages using Mayor’s Hotline, reporting ASAP
Keeping ramps and sidewalks accessible is important any time of year -- even more so with the College World Series due into town in a few weeks' time.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 10:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Hundreds have walked across the accessibility bridge at 9th and Dodge in downtown Omaha since holes began breaking through.

Stumbling upon a problem, though, doesn’t get things fixed, unless you tell somebody, which we did. The city responded immediately.

“We just heard about it this week, and so we took time to go down and assess the situation,” Omaha’s assistant director of public works Austin Rowser said. “And certainly it’s something the city can and will and should repair.”

It is the only ramp for those with disabilities connecting the city’s 9th Street parking lot - and adjoining businesses - to the Dodge Street sidewalk in front of Lula B’s and Addy’s, and was built as old warehouses were developed into businesses and apartments.

“It’s city infrastructure at this point, its infrastructure and right of way that has public use,” Rowser said. “As soon as we know about it, we go and evaluate, we come up with a repair (plan), and that’s what we intend to do in this situation, is rebuild the majority of that sidewalk coming up to that ramp and just fix it so its a good, whole, solid structure.”

“Our ADA walkways in particular, they have changed the material in the last couple of years (used for building and repairs), and it wasn’t the city that did it it was kind of the whole availability of materials,” Omaha Downtown Improvement District executive director Holly Barrett said. “They don’t last as long as the ones that had been in there for a while, so public works is having to replace more and more of them.”

Barrett says Omaha’s Mayor’s Hotline is their first step when they see something in need of repair, and if it takes pestering - leaving multiple messages - then so be it.

“Even my group that’s out there, we’ve got five full-time staff people, they’re 365 days a year, and even they miss those things because they’re set on their routines and their schedules and they’re looking at the litter, not at the condition of the sidewalk or so on and so forth,” Barrett said. “We do rely on the community and we absolutely push the Mayor’s Hotline.”

At any given time, the public works department may have 2,000 maintenance work orders, and 40 to 50 capital improvement projects underway.

So even the looming College World Series crowds can’t take precedence.

“We’re definitely not gonna do that, we prioritize all of our citizens so we make sure when work is coming in we’re turning it around in a timely manner,” Rowser said. “Obviously, we keep our eyes on our kinda marquee locations, things that people come to our city for, and we’re a little more proactive about making sure those areas get checked in a timely manner.”

Rowser says they’ll begin repair work on the 9th and Dodge ramp next week. It’s an example of work that needs to be done, and timely -- the repairs should be in place before the College World Series foot traffic.

“That’s wonderful news,” Lula B’s general manager Alyssa Roach said. “We pride ourselves on being accessible to all of our guests and I know that the holes that we’ve had out there in the ramp have definitely been an issue for people, and not just for our business but for anyone who is parking just east of our business at 9th and Dodge, trying to head over into the downtown and Capitol District area, and so its really great to know that the city is taking action on this so that everyone will be safe coming to our business and all the surrounding businesses.”