(April 11, 2022)
Omaha, NE – A pedestrian safety pilot will begin in May to slow traffic and provide greater safety for pedestrians on Farnam Street in the heart of the popular Blackstone District.
Currently, there are two westbound vehicle lanes and one eastbound lane on Farnam Street throughout the district. The middle lane will be converted to a left turn only in the four-block area from 36th to 40th street. One eastbound and one westbound lane will remain.
The traffic lanes will be narrowed, and the parking lanes on both sides of Farnam will be widened, creating a greater buffer between vehicle traffic and pedestrians.
Traffic counts on Farnam show approximately 10,000 vehicles use Farnam each day, 88% are westbound. The speed limit is 30 mph.
A variety of unsignalized pedestrian crossing treatments will be tested including pedestrian islands in the center lane. The intersections at 38th Avenue and 39th Street will also be modified with additional crosswalk markings, curb extensions using bollards, and more signage alerting drivers to pedestrians.
“These changes are 100% about improving public safety which is our number one priority and responsibility,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “This pilot is also an example of how our Vision Zero strategy is incorporated into the review of road safety and design changes to better protect all users of the road.”
Among the recommendations of Mayor Stothert’s Vision Zero Task Force is to “prioritize improvements to active transportation facilities on corridors with high crash rates involving vulnerable users and along transit corridors”.
“Our responsibility is to design, build and maintain safe streets,” said City of Omaha Engineer Todd Pfitzer. “These improvements are designed to improve safety for everyone. We are also mindful that the streetcar will run west on Farnam through Blackstone, so we will evaluate the effectiveness of each option as design work begins on the streetcar, and determine the best, permanent safety features.”
The Farnam Street pedestrian safety pilot has been developed through a partnership between the City of Omaha Public Works Department and the Blackstone Business Improvement District.
“This pilot will improve the pedestrian experience for visitors and residents of the Blackstone Business District by making it safer to cross Farnam Street at any intersection they choose,” said BID President Jim Farho.
The Blackstone BID hired FHU Engineering to study traffic on Farnam Street and make recommendations. City engineers, FHU, and BID representatives reviewed options and agreed on the lane modifications and pedestrian safety pilot. The BID paid FHU $14,500. The City will pay approximately $10-$15,000 to implement the lane modifications and pedestrian safety pilot features.
“As the chair of the Public Works Committee, I was pleased to bring together concerned citizens and the Blackstone Improvement District leaders to partner and continually improve pedestrian safety in Blackstone. This is a great example of local government working together for the common good of our citizens to have their voices heard,” said District 3 City Councilmember Danny Begley.
The City is making several other improvements in Blackstone. Construction will begin on a new parking garage west of the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel. The City Council approved the project on April 5. The 385-stall garage is expected to open in 2024. The cost is $18.8 million.
The City’s Parking and Mobility Division will ask the City Council to change city code to create a permitting process to allow parklet installations in high pedestrian demand areas. A parklet is a temporary use of a parking area stall for pedestrian activity.
“These are all excellent examples of how partnerships between Business Improvements Districts and the City can have a positive impact,” said Mayor Stothert. “BIDs empower citizens to preserve and enhance their communities by developing projects and services that address the needs of that district.
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