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The Nebraska Department of Transportation released the Metro Area Travel Improvement Study, which is meant to guide road improvements in the Omaha area for the next few decades.
Announced Feb. 13, the study considers Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa, which lies just across the Missouri River. The study area encompasses a sprawl that includes 83 miles of interstate highway, 180 miles of state routes, 176 miles of local roads and 39 miles of other freeways and expressways. Omaha and Council Bluffs sit at the nexus of interstates 80, 480, 680 and 29.
The study’s goal is to determine ways to maximize the lifespan of existing infrastructure, reduce congestion on freeways, address air quality concerns and limit fatalities. The study offers a vision of what the transportation network will need in order to grow. According to the study, the previous freeway master plan for the Omaha area was completed in 1985.
“The development Nebraska has experienced over the last 10 years is a testament to the value the state puts on growing the economy through smart investments,” NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said. “This report helps refine the vision for the needs of the state’s largest transportation network. Publishing it doesn’t change our commitment to preserving and modernizing the state’s 10,000 miles of highway to build and maintain a resilient infrastructure system to support a growing Nebraska.”
Outlined in the study are recommendations for some of the major routes that pass through the area. For I-80, a key east-west route, the study recommends the addition of one or two lanes in each direction and a potential new interchange on the route at a point about 20 miles southeast of downtown Omaha. Additional lanes also are recommended for the northbound and southbound segments of I-480, a 5-mile auxiliary interstate route that links downtown Omaha to Council Bluffs. The study proposes reconfiguring two interchanges and a distributor road along I-680, which forms a partial loop north of Omaha.
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The study calls for the reconfiguration of three interchanges and the addition of lanes along U.S. Route 75, which runs from Dallas to the Canadian border and bisects Omaha. Reconfigured interchanges to eliminate weaving for traffic also are recommended for U.S. Route 6, an east-west route that runs from California to Massachusetts and passes through downtown Omaha.
The improvements to I-80 were designated as the highest priority among the freeway system recommendations laid out in the study. Interstates 480 and 680 were given next highway priority. U.S. routes 75 and 6 were assigned lowest priority.
The study also recommends system preservation projects, such as panel repair and joint sealing. These projects are meant to restore the network’s overall condition rather than add capacity.
NDOT collaborated with the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency for the study, which took six years to complete. NDOT and its partners will continue to refine and develop the plan. NDOT officials also will consider disruptions to the traveling public such as priority for corridor projects and the combination of system preservation and expansion projects in certain situations.
Design work to address needs that will support anticipated construction is scheduled to begin in 2025.
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