Neighborhood organizer talks effort to fix streets near Omaha elementary school

An Omaha neighborhood took matters into its own hands in finding a solution to dangerous roadways.
Published: Sep. 10, 2023 at 10:39 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Neighborhood streets in Loveland were in such bad shape, they were getting too dangerous for drivers.

Ridgewood and Poppleton avenues run along Loveland Elementary School. To say they were in rough shape two years ago would’ve been an understatement.

“I saw better streets in Kathmandu,” Loveland Neighborhood Association President Peter Gadzinski said. “Let’s put it that way.”

When 6 News’s Mike McKnight reported on it two years ago, drivers using Ridgewood and Poppleton avenues were worried about the damage the crevices and pits in the roads were doing to their vehicles.

There was also a safety concern when driving through the neighborhood or dropping off kids at school.

“Everybody knows how to drive on a paved street but nobody knew how to drive on that street,” Gadzinski said. “So it was cars wiggly waggly, here, there, everywhere. It was actually dangerous.”

So the Loveland Neighborhood Association said enough was enough. In 2021, they started a petition for a Street Improvement District raising $1 million for the project, with the city paying for 60 percent of it, Westside Community Schools covering 30 percent, and residential owners taking care of the rest.

However, the Omaha City Council rejected the proposal that December.

It was back to the old drawing board.

Gadzinski said he met with Westside Community Schools superintendent Mike Lucas and then-school board member Doug Krenzer.

“They realized that if they did not kick in now to improve those streets when they rebuild the school—which they’re planning to do in 2026—they’d have to pay for the whole thing,” he said. “There was a possibility they’d have to pay for everything. So they decided, ‘Yeah, we’ll chip in 40 percent.’”

With residents kicking in 10 percent, the city council agreed to the city covering 50 percent.

Today, there’s fresh pavement on both stretches of the avenues. The landscaping work still needs to get done, but Gadzinski said it’s made a big difference.

“It’s really wonderful, too,” he said. “People are very happy about it.”

He said it’s a testament to democracy -- citizens banding together and working with the government to implement something that’s a benefit to all.