City works on plan to improve neighborhood roads

Posted at 12:04 PM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 13:05:01-05

Some dirt or asphalt roads within the city limits are tough to drive on and falling apart.

But who is responsible for repairing them?

When some subdivisions were built decades ago, the unimproved roads weren't constructed up to city standards.

Developers put down asphalt that doesn't last. Now they are broken down and full of potholes.

Omaha’s public works department says they're so bad they can't be fixed and need to be rebuilt.

They're seeing many people ask for help to fix them
"At some point, it's really not fixable anymore. You either have to replace it or rebuild it. One of the two."

The public works department is compiling the number of unimproved roads in every geographical area of the metro.

“There's hundreds of them. There's full neighborhoods that are completely unimproved."
Before many of the areas were annexed developers put in substandard roads, knowing the city wouldn't maintain them.

For the third time in the last few months, the city council approved partial funding to improve a neighborhood's streets, but residents will share the cost.

"None of us want to pay for it, but it would seem that the city's policy is that if we don't do this then the streets will simply not be improved and there will be no further repairs to the street," said Howard Kaslow.

Since then, council members are getting lots of calls for help on other streets.

The city wants to be able to rebuild all of these streets but the cost and where the money would come from is still unclear.

"We are trying to pull together. Public works is trying to pull together the magnitude so that we can present to the mayor and the council that it's a $5 million problem. It's a $50 million problem. It's a $150 million problem or issue. We don't know what those numbers are yet," said Todd Pfitzer, a city engineer.

Many things still need to worked out, but every plan so far has residents footing part of the bill.

A major question is it fair to have a person who owns a half-million-dollar home pay the same percent as a person who owns a $75,000 home?

Councilman Pete Festersen says it's important to find a balance to improve infrastructure for all.

“So we are encouraging a new policy to be in place whereby we can address this in a better fashion and help participate financially to get these neighborhoods and their streets addressed," said Festerson.

The public works department says they hope to know the magnitude of the unimproved metro streets in the next couple of weeks.

But getting a plan presented, including how much it would cost, and how it would be paid for will likely take more than 6 months.