Wide Open Spaces

April 19, 2011 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m not crazy about Lincoln’s emphasis lately on making arterials as wide as possible. Driving on Pioneers Blvd. around Lucille Dr., for example, I feel like I stumbled across a runway for B-52s. With two lanes each direction, right turn lanes, and a wiiiide center turn lane, there’s space galore. We’re told that’s great for safety, but it’s killer on our wallets and ugly as sin, not to mention the fact that it invites drivers to speed like they’re on the Utah salt flats. Which brings me to the concerns being raised about updates to Old Cheney Road east of Highway 2.

Disclaimer: Don’t take road-building advice from some guy who blogs from his basement.

There’s a literal case of NIMBY going on here so we have to ask ourselves if this is really something Lincolnites as a whole should be concerned with. It is. Roads aren’t just about transportation. Roads also help define neighborhoods. For example, compare and contrast Sheridan Boulevard and North Cotner Boulevard. Those two streets communicate very different messages about the neighborhoods they pass through. And need I remind you what the single lane portion of South 27th Street communicates about those neighborhoods? More broadly, those streets communicate oodles about how we, as a community, value the interaction between transportation, home, and business.

One of the concerns expressed by Old Cheney neighbors involves the inclusion of right turn lanes into neighborhoods. The neighbors don’t want ‘em because it means that much more land has to be taken from their back yards. Road engineers argue that right turn lanes are safer and better promote the flow of traffic. Ditto for medians, which are also optional. So what’s our priority? Faster speed limits or streets that don’t look like they need an air traffic control tower?

Having traveled the portions of Old Cheney Road that don’t feature right turn lanes for most of my life, I’m inclined to say we can feel confident in ditching that feature. The intersection at 35th and Old Cheney, among many others, doesn’t feel any less safe because of its lack of right turn lane. Perhaps accident data says otherwise.

As for having a median, I personally prefer well-maintained medians over those bugly center turn lanes as they appear on Pioneers. When there aren’t many places to turn into, they use up acres of concrete despite the fact that much of the surface area isn’t particularly usable. Ick.

I do have to call out Jon Camp on one error. He argues that Old Cheney’s design, as it is currently proposed, is excessive because “this is just a residential arterial”. Sorry Mr. Camp, but that’s just plain foolish. Sure that portion of Old Cheney isn’t much today, but to suggest that it isn’t a critical component of Lincoln’s long-term transportation plan is bizarrely short-sighted. That’s the sort of thinking that has led to some of the transportation problems we have in Lincoln today. Let’s not continue down that road (so to speak).

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The Comments

JT April 19, 2011 at 2:03pm

The main problem with ever expanding roads is that they divide neighborhoods and tether people to their cars. Big roads are tough to cross, whether by bike or on foot.

Fletch April 19, 2011 at 2:16pm

I live near Old Cheney. I have lived within a mile of Old Cheney since 1992. I have lived within 2 blocks of Old Cheney for 13 of those years in different spots. I had to navigate the widening of that road from 27th all the way to 70th (about 5-8 blocks at a time), and live with 84th and Old Cheney being closed for about 18 months. I drive that road every single day, usually multiple times.

There is no doubt in my mind that the section between 70th and 84th should be consistent with the way it’s designed at 84th Street, and the way it is between Highway 2 and 70th Street. Due to traffic heading to Maxey, I think there should definitely be right-turn lanes at least at the intersection of 77th Street on the westbound side. It’s a pity they haven’t already made one of those temporary widenings to allow for a left turn lane at that light.

The one huge mistake I think they made with the intersection of 70th and Old Cheney was not putting in a right-turn lane northbound on 70th Street.

Fletch April 19, 2011 at 2:20pm

I should add that I am pro-widening because it is one of the few roads that can actually take somebody all the way from Warlick Boulevard to 84th Street, and the only narrow stretch is the one in question. Finishing that will be akin to when they finally finished 84th Street from Highway 2 to Highway 6.

I also feel just as strongly that 56th Street should be torn out and widened from Old Cheney to Pine Lake Road, and I do not live in that vicinity nor do I drive it on a daily basis.

Mr. Wilson April 19, 2011 at 2:47pm

The 56th Street expansion is happening ... uhh ... sometime. Shoot, now I can’t find the info online. I want to say it’s happening in 2012, but I may have made that up.

Mr. Wilson April 19, 2011 at 2:50pm

Oh here it is. No construction date has been set.

meatball April 19, 2011 at 3:28pm

My issue—if what some of the homeowners along that stretch of Old Cheney have said is accurate—is that the city told them, “This is the width we’ll need. Go ahead and put up your fences and plant your trees, etc.” Now the city’s changed it’s mind. It’s going to cost more for the wider street and in compensation for lost fences and trees, etc. Again, that’s if what the homeowners have said is accurate.

Mr. Wilson April 19, 2011 at 3:42pm

I don’t see in the article any claims that the City said that. In the case of Rick Kennedy’s property, it sounds like his real estate agent did “research” into the issue, and Mr. Kennedy made decisions according to that research. Perhaps the neighbors have spoken out about the City’s claims/promises elsewhere, but I don’t see any such thing in the article I linked to.

Jeff April 19, 2011 at 3:55pm

The city did the same to me when I lived along Pine Lake.  Initially the width of the road was XX feet, but as the widening project neared they increased it.  They wanted cars to be able to go half way at 45th and Pine Lake Road and sit until the other lanes were clear.  Personally, I would feel sorry for anyone watching a car come at me and “hope” they stop half way.  Maybe I’m goofy, but i thought this was kinda strange, but that’s why the “engineer” said they were increasing the width.

So, I’m with meatball on this issue.

Fletch April 19, 2011 at 4:11pm

I feel for people in this situation to a degree, but at the same time - if you are going to build adjacent to a major road, this cannot be totally unexpected.

In Lincoln, a major road usually has a much larger sign. Often it has much taller street lights. There are many such roads where 50-60-70% of the road has been widened and is considered an arterial. If you move in to a place in the unfinished portion, you a) need to expect this could be a reality, or b) are a fool to think it’s going to stay the way it looks the day you bought it. My first home was near 27th and Pine Lake. It was the first home built on the street, and at that time, all four corners of the intersection of 27th and Pine Lake were still fields, and neither 27th nor Pine Lake had been widened to 4 lanes yet. However, I did my research and knew what was coming. I knew a mall was going in, that it would be surrounded with strip centers, and that there would be restaurants and a middle and high school coming soon nearby. I built several lots away from Pine Lake Road so as to not have the lights and noise. It’s not hard to prepare and plan ahead. Moving into a new development is risky - zoning can change after the fact, road plans can change. I had no idea what the 10 houses to be built around me would look like. If someone can’t handle those things, then they shouldn’t move into such a situation. As Clint Eastwood says in Heartbreak Ridge - improvise, adapt, overcome.

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