Islands of Despair

August 30, 2006 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

One thing I really like about some of Lincoln’s newest arterials is the presence of landscaped medians dividing the lanes of traffic. At the same time, I really hate those medians. Some of them are attractive and well-maintained; others look as though they ought to be condemned. Some are festooned with nice grasses, flowers, and trees; others, with weeds and trash.

Having landscaped medians is both a big opportunity and a big responsibility. I’m not sure that the City is up to the challenge. That’s not a criticism of the City, per se. The City can only do what they have money to do, and given all of the other things demanding monetary attention, landscaped medians really oughtn’t be high on the list. But it is, I think, fair to criticize the City for biting off more than it can chew by taking on new maintenance responsibilities every time a road is newly landscaped.

So here are my questions: Do we, as a community, want to bother with landscaped medians? Are they worth the building and maintenance costs? If not, what do we replace them with? If so, how can we better take care of them?

One of my suggestions—and one of the most obvious, I think—is to enlist the assistance of nearby neighborhood associations. But most new(er) neighborhoods face inward, so many of them don’t consider their bordering arterials to be a part of the neighborhood. Without a sense of ownership over the streets, there is little incentive to keep them looking tidy. Your thoughts?

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The Comments

foxspit August 30, 2006 at 3:28pm

I don’t think I would one citizens out on the medians watering plants, pulling weeds, etc… It’s unsafe and they aren’t trained to work in the middle of traffic.

I think Lincoln has gone absolutely crazy over medians and they create some incredible boondoggles at certain locations.  They are, in my opinion, overdone and incredibly frustrating at times.

I am, generally, in favor of more landscaping in Lincoln.  I wish city codes required commercial developers to install and maintain better landscaping on their large paved parking areas, for instance.  And landscaped medians are more attractive.  This seems like a luxury, however, that the city can’t afford right now.

Karin August 30, 2006 at 3:34pm

While I think landscaped medians are great in some places- especially routes visitors frequently take, like 27th street, I see them in other places and think “why?”

Requiring developers to have better landscaping could work the same way - choose a few routes that bring in visitors frequently, and start requiring that businesses maintain some level of landscaping. Of course, the risk there is that no business will then want to locate there, but I would hope that instead these areas would bet a slightly higher quality of business- or maybe ones that want to cater specifically to visitors (restaurants, gift shops, etc). 

My first forays into Lincoln did not leave a good impression on me. (way back in ‘98) I distinctly remember coming down 27th street and thinking “what a dump” - they’ve been doing a good job of improvement, but more could be done. I really love how 27th street has a wide variety of ethnic restaurants and businesses right now, I wouldn’t want that to change, but a little sprucing up here and there of landscaping wouldn’t hurt.

foxspit August 30, 2006 at 5:29pm

Yeah, Lincoln’s entryways could definitely use some improvements.  I love North 27th Street’s improvements and the diversity.  Some of Lincoln’s best homegrown restaurants live on 27th Street.

Some shade trees in the sea of asphalt are all I really ask for from developers.  Other places seem to be able to pull it off.

Barbara August 30, 2006 at 6:22pm

What a coincidence - I was just thinking about this very thing yesterday while driving along 27th, 56th, etc. Some of the medians look good, others are trash-filled. It must cost quite a bit to take care of the landscaping/cleaning, and obviously the costs of this were not adequately factored in. When I complained to the city earlier this year about the garbage in the 66th and O St median (just north of O St), I was informed that oops, the contractor they have hired to take care of these medians “must have missed this one.” They did get right on it and clean it up, but it very shortly became a catch-place for litter again.

Check out the medians along Leighton/Huntington between 33rd and 48th. Soda bottles, fast food trash, beer bottles, broken glass, etc., lies there for months upon months. What’s the point of cleaning the medians once a year??

Lincoln doesn’t seem to have an adequate plan in place to remove litter. I have never seen a city of this size have such a problem with keeping litter picked up in public areas. It’s not been so bad up until a few years ago - I think people are still convinced that ‘Lincoln is a very clean city,’ so they ignore any possible evidence to the contrary. Ignoring the issue also seems to be the very agency charged with taking care of things like this - the Health Department, specifically the Keep Lincoln and Lancaster County Beautiful Program. When was the last time you saw a public campaign against litter in this city? Anyway, it’s quite frustrating.

Neal August 30, 2006 at 6:25pm

From a safety perspective, I hate the landscaped medians along Lincoln Mall. I think they look really nice and fit the neighborhood well, but coming south on 12th street, it’s nearly impossible to see if there is a car heading east because the bushes and flowers are so tall.

foxspit August 30, 2006 at 8:26pm

I know exactly what you’re talking about Neal.  It’s much too tall and is a safety hazard.

ST August 30, 2006 at 9:20pm

I agree that they have gone overboard on the landscaping, and with creating landscaping plans that require too much maintenance for the city to handle with its ever limited budget.  I would much rather see a plain, utilitarian median on arterial roadways in town than an unkempt landscaped one.  Meanwhile, save the maintenance dollars for the city’s gateway entries (27th, O, etc.)

As for Lincoln Mall, I completely agree.  I worked in one of the buildings there for several years and can’t count how many near-miss accidents I saw.  It probably doesn’t rank high on the city’s accident list because people can stop due to the low rate of speed, but there are a ton of swerves and near misses each day.  Not to mention a lot of pedestrian conflicts.  I was, in a way, happy to hear the bike lane wasn’t extended all the way down to Lincoln Mall because of the issues with the StarTran buses that stop at 11th and Lincoln Mall, but that is whole other topic…

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