Improvements to be made on Omaha’s controversial North Freeway
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One of the most controversial projects in Omaha’s history is about to get an upgrade.
Starting Sept. 6th, a new $25M project to paint bridges across Highway 75 in north Omaha begins.
The freeway has a legacy of discrimination against Omaha’s African-American community.
Everywhere you look in the area, cones and barrels line the roadway.
Some people who live nearby welcome the change.
“It just shows that you’re putting money into the community,” said Phillip McGary, a north Omaha resident.
However, Adam Fletcher Sasse, author of northomahahistory.com, says the North Omaha freeway has been a source of contention from the start.
“The freeway has never been popular for the people who live in the neighborhoods where it cuts through,” Fletcher Sasse said. “It was an idea by the feds, it was an idea by the state government, it was an idea by the city government in the 1960s.”
The idea was that the freeway would connect Interstate 480 with Interstate 680.
Fletcher Sasse says, in reality, it sliced Omaha’s African-American community in half, destroying homes, churches, and businesses and leaving behind a road full of resentments.
“It was very divisive from the moment it was conceptualized all the way through its implementation which took 30 years to finish,” Fletcher Sasse said.
Painting and lane closures are expected to continue through 2024.
The first bridges to be repainted will be on Lake Street and Binney Street. Hamilton Street is the suggested alternative.
In the spring of 2024, painting will resume on other bridges including Ames Avenue, Hamilton Street, and the Creighton Pedestrian Bridge.
The bridges will also receive structural repairs, and the freeways milled and resurfaced.
Fletcher Sasse said the improvements may not be enough to heal deeply felt wounds.
“I think this is a little bit of a lipstick on a pig situation, where they’re trying to do something nice to make it look a little bit better, but in reality, it’s still going to be what it is, divisive, segregating, all kinds of ugly things that have really deeply scarred the entire Omaha community.”
Fletcher Sasse told 6 News that the best way to start the healing process is to bring everyone together to talk, especially those most affected.
“It’s so important to include the African American community, include the low-income community, include people who aren’t typically and traditionally engaged in Omaha’s activities to make the city better.”
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