I stand for a transportation plan that benefits all of Omaha.
To our civic leaders and representatives on the MAPA board,
Every day we see the effects of a city decentralizing. We see police, fire, and snow removal personnel being asked to cover more miles on budgets that don't keep pace; we see schools and hospitals forced to expand into the outer areas while balancing the renovation needs of aging campuses; we see new neighborhoods being built on last year's farmland while families living in older parts of our city are frustrated by flooding sewers, aging bridges, and crumbling pot-holed streets. The likely consequences of the above compound into a significantly reduced quality of life for all who call this city home, particularly among already vulnerable populations.
This issue is not getting better, it’s getting worse. The recent MAPA transportation plan including its re-energized effort to wrap Omaha in a $700-800 million 1950’s era beltway is exactly what we don't need. The centrifugal force of highway development in our rural exterior would forever change the trajectory of future investment while paving the way for ever-expanding suburban sprawl. We share a history of non-holistic planning decisions that have created a city stratified across race and class. Our future planning efforts must strive for a more just and inclusive environment, rather than one that further segregates and isolates our diverse communities.
As residents of our established neighborhoods, beneficiaries of our existing infrastructure, and stewards of our existing institutions, we must demand that transportation planning FOCUS ON THE NEEDS OF ALL OF OMAHA.
Our metropolitan area needs a transportation plan that meets the following criteria.
· Features an integrated plan to spur new development in existing neighborhoods, nurture jobs near existing populations and progressively plan for more sustainable transportation.
· Limits the need to build new water, sewer, power and transportation systems while ensuring that existing systems are repaired, updated and continually maintained.
· Ensures sustained growth in parts of the city that suffer from a lack of quality education, jobs, and affordable quality housing.
· Supports existing efforts to reduce segregation along social and economic lines.
· Includes analysis and consideration of the beltway’s effect on the citizens already suffering from the lack of upward mobility and locked into a cycle of unemployment, poverty and crime.
· Prioritizes preserving existing farmland for future food production and protects the need for readily accessible open space.
At the conclusion of the most recent VOICE public meeting, over 90% of attendees indicated they were strongly against the current proposal to build a beltway and a similar percentage feel there is a strong correlation between city planning and equal opportunity. I stand with those attendees. The proposed beltway would not be a well planned next step for our City, and I urge you, our civic leaders, to stop the beltway and provide our citizens with a new transportation plan that benefits all.