Friday, March 19, 2010

Dear Member of the Omaha Metro Active Transportation Community

Many of you have noticed that almost no new trails have been opened on the Nebraska side of the metro area for a long time. Many major trail projects are designed and fully funded, including the West Douglas County Trail from Waterloo to Valley, a major part of the Riverfront Trail, the western end of the East-West Trail that will connect the Keystone and Field Club Trails, and Papillion’s 72nd Street Trail. These are very important projects for our active transportation community and would also create millions of dollars of new construction activity. Yet nothing seems to be happening. Why?

We have discovered several reasons that are causing these key projects to grind to a halt:
1. The state Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) office has found that the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), who administers these funds, was in noncompliance with various regulations and procedures on some (non-trail) projects. Therefore, every project in the pipeline is being forced to go back to square one in the process.

2. At the state division of the FHWA, projects are encountering reviews and processing delays that seem unnecessary. Traffic signal installations and minor resurfacing projects must study their effect on endangered species, for example, and trails are treated like major highway projects. Short documents that should be reviewed and approved quickly are taking months because of drafts, reviews, and redrafts.

3. Stimulus projects are moving to the front of the line ahead of trails and other projects that have been funded for years and are ready to go, causing more delays.

4. Government agencies don’t seem to be communicating well. Rules and standards seem to change and procedural issues do not seem to be getting fixed.

What’s the result? Projects that we have been working on and anticipating for years now seem to be facing delays of up to FIVE YEARS! We know that people think they’re doing their jobs. But most of us would like to see these projects built before we’re too old to use them. Also, moving paper and having meetings does not stimulate the economy, create jobs, improve health, or promote sustainable transportation. We as a community must take some action. Therefore, we ask you to email, write, and/or phone any or all of the following people to express your opinion about these issues:

Sample Letter

Dear (President Obama, Senator Nelson, Senator Johanns, Representative Terry, Governor Heinemann, Mr. Frederickson, Mr. Werning, Mayor Suttle)

I am a member of the Omaha, Nebraska metropolitan community who is vitally interested in trail development, sustainable transportation, and the physical health and vitality of our metropolitan area and its citizens. In our area, we have millions of dollars of trails projects that are funded, designed, and ready to build, yet are not moving forward. These projects will improve our area’s facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists, improve community wellness, and put hundreds of people to work during their construction. Yet, they are being delayed for an indeterminate time because the Federal Highway Administration found the Nebraska Department of Roads to be in noncompliance with various regulations and procedures. This is causing worthy, ready-to-build projects to go back to the beginning of the review process and is blocking efforts to build a healthier, more sustainable community.

I am not an expert on these issues and certainly do not want to cast blame on anyone. I simply would like to see federal and state agencies work together to resolve their issues so these important transportation projects can move forward. I do ask that you do everything in your power to help these agencies resolve their issues and work as partners to expedite these vital trail projects. The health and quality of our metropolitan area depends on it.

Sincerely yours,

(Your Name)


AOJules said...

Friends, let me also add that there are previously funded Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects that are sitting on hold due to this situation as well. The money flows from the feds to the NDOR to be distributed.

We need to get this fixed!

The Douglas said...

Agreed. I'm in and ready to act!

Jeff said...

Filled it out and dropped emails- though Prez, Gov and Mayor had to sent through their sites, Just for for fun to World Herald and Morning show at KFAB

Biker Bob said...

Cool... thanks.

I've emailed them all. I even got responses from some of them.

Randall said...

I just got back from Flagstaff, AZ. I lived there from 6/08 to 4/09. For a city of 60,000, they have invested and planned pretty well for a multiple use trail system. check out for more info. Omaha could learn from their model.

Jeff said...

World Herald published the letter, edited for brevity on March 29, and I've got some replies-promising more in depth replies. They completely cut the paragraph I added about the MOPAC trail. My compliments to the original author!