Omaha, Nebraska – Omaha Public Works has once again embarked on an assessment of city traffic signals, a process that has evoked mixed reactions from residents.
This initiative marks the sixth phase of a broader 10-12 year strategy aimed at rejuvenating Omaha’s traffic signal system. This ambitious project was last visited over a year ago. “It’s the sixth phase of a 10-12 year plan to modernize the city’s traffic signals that’s getting underway this week; the last phase happened more than a year ago.”
The core objective is to ensure all traffic lights align with the federal criteria as documented in the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.” This manual encompasses a myriad of factors, from vehicular and pedestrian frequencies to wait durations and accident occurrences.
Post evaluation, each signal undergoes one of two possible outcomes. It is either updated with real-time surveillance capabilities or is eliminated if it fails to satisfy federal benchmarks or is deemed redundant. The city has achieved considerable progress since the project’s inception. “Since 2017, 29 traffic signals have been removed after being evaluated. The utility says 469 of the city’s 1,000 traffic signals will be upgraded by the end of 2023.”
In the upcoming two months, another seven signals are on the agenda for review. This assessment requires the temporary deactivation of these signals, thereby enabling the city to analyze vehicular movements, solicit public feedback, and garner additional pertinent information.
However, the proposal to possibly dismantle the signal at the “intersection of 144th and U streets” has ruffled some feathers among locals. Pat Rodis, a resident adjacent to this intersection, fears potential mayhem, exclaiming, “I think it’s going to be a disaster.” Another resident, Ann Holmes, who resides a mere two blocks from this intersection, concurs. She worries about increased vehicular speed in the absence of the signal, asserting, “Potentially taking out this light just allows traffic to pick up speed.”
Both Rodis and Holmes, long-term denizens of the locality with over three decades of residency, reminisce about past times before traffic lights, which were fraught with vehicular collisions due to excessive speeding. The bustling traffic, compounded by the presence of Millard South High School and several eateries and bars, underscores their belief in the indispensability of these signals. As Rodis rightly points out, “People will be lined up trying to get in and out of the neighborhood… it’s just way too much traffic to have nothing monitoring it.”
Holmes humorously dubs Q street as ‘INDY Q’, drawing attention to its rapid traffic. She acknowledges the importance of traffic evaluations but remains wary of potential hazards, especially when making left turns on this swift-moving road.
Further expanding on the traffic signal assessment initiative, six other intersections have been earmarked for scrutiny, highlighted in orange on the accompanying map:
- 16th and William streets
- 33rd and Davenport streets
- 38th and California streets
- 20th and Pierce streets
- 43rd Avenue and Cuming Street
- 16th and Davenport streets
The initial trio from the list will operate as universal stops.
Upon satisfactory performance during this examination phase, signals will face permanent removal. The city’s Public Works department references Federal Highway Administration statistics, asserting that obliterating non-essential traffic lights can diminish accidents, curtail wait durations, and obliterate red-light contraventions.