Neighborhood wants Farnam Street rotating road rules tossed

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- For more than half a century, drivers have had to check their watches taking Farnam Street through the Midtown area as the street changes from two-way to one-way during weekday commutes.

Many neighbors want those time-sensitive road rules to be a thing of the past, and the city is taking a closer look at the corridor.

In the evening, traffic goes eastbound, while between 7 and 9 a.m., it's a one-way westbound.

Neighbors say they just want a normal road where they don't have to worry which way they're going every time they leave their home.

“If you live where I live — right here — and you have to go downtown between 4 and 6 o'clock, it's virtually impossible,” said Jim McGee of Omaha.

McGee has lived just off Farnam Street for more than 30 years and said when Farnam turns into a one-way for just 4 hours a day, it's easy for drivers to get caught going the wrong direction.

“Plenty of near-misses,” he said. “Plenty of times where cars end up in front yards.”

Three years ago, the city conducted a study on crashes in the corridor when Farnam is in one-way mode.

The data show that on average, 18 crashes happened on the stretch of road each year from 2004 to 2008; that number decreased to 13 annually between 2009 and 2013.

But McGee doesn't think the numbers tell the whole story since close-calls aren't reported.

“We encountered a wrong-way driver at 40th and Farnam. We encountered a wrong-way driver at 55th and Farnam,” he said.

During weekdays, Farnam Street becomes a one-way from West Saddle Creek Road to Dodge — eastbound from 7 to 9 a.m. and westbound from 4 to 6 p.m.

“They don't understand when you live next to Farnam, you have to think about that all the time,” said Peter Manhart, who lives in the Dundee neighborhood.

He said he's teaching his 16-year-old how to drive and has to stress to her to avoid Farnam during rush hour.

“I'm 47; I've been a wrong-way driver,” he said. “You have to know every time and remember sometimes it gets dark, and it's still 5:45 (p.m.)”

City officials found the corridor has a crash rate in-line with other non-reversible corridors in the city that have similar traffic volumes.

“We just simply want it treated like every other street that the traffic engineer treats in the city,” Manhart said.

The city said this new study, which will show crash numbers from 2014 to 2016, should be available in the next couple of weeks. So far, city officials tell us they don't have any statistics that indicate the road is confusing to drivers.