Note: In the next few weeks, our Program Coordinator, Annabelle, will be visiting “hot spots” in Omaha, or places that have heavy traffic and have been deemed unsafe for pedestrians. This is the first in a series of blog posts.
This week, I looked at North 30th St, which doubles as Highway 75 in the Florence neighborhood in Omaha. This stretch is home to many businesses, schools, community organizations, and places of residence. The traffic includes many freight trucks, semi trucks, and large vehicles that pass through the 4 lane highway.
Our friends at MAPA (Metropolitan Area Planning Agency) are coordinating a $300,000 Highway 75 Corridor and Freight Strategy Study with the help of Sen. Justin Wayne, who secured the funding for this project. The study is currently identifying alternatives for this stretch. I attended the first virtual public meeting in December 2021 that explained the study and addressed public input. However, I decided to actually go walk the area myself and report my personal experiences and thoughts as I was out there. Please note that these experiences are unique to me and do not reflect the entirety of the situation.
Having grown up in Omaha, driving down N. 30th street was nothing new for me and neither was walking the area. In high school, I volunteered for an entire summer as a camp counselor at an all girls day camp that was located at Trinity Lutheran Church right on Redick & N. 30th. When I say an entire summer I mean I was there eight hours a day, five days a week for two and a half months as a volunteer. I got to know the area pretty well. Walking down 30th street that first time when I was a young teen stuck with me. I remember thinking how odd it was for businesses to be so close to the street and having to quickly move away from the sidewalk as large trucks or speeding traffic zoomed by. As that summer progressed, I began tasked with walking a group of twenty 5-12 year olds across N. 30th St to Miller Park multiple times a week, terrifying me as some girls ran past and others took their time as the crosswalk seconds timed down.
As I recently revisited the area on foot, I took time to walk by the church and cross the same intersection to Miller Park. I even walked further south on N. 30th to Nelson Mandela school and crossed the street there, too. Walking down N. 30th street brought back the same memories I had the first time I set foot in the area. Zooming cars and no barriers next to sidewalks made me hyper aware of each vehicle that passed me. Crossing N. 30th was faster than I remembered. Once I hit the button to cross, the little pedestrian light turned on almost immediately. That’s not to say I felt safe the entire time, some cars sped through the yellow light to make the intersection before having to wait for me to cross. I felt there was adequate time for me to cross, but I was also hurrying along in the crosswalk. If I had that group of girls again, or was with someone who could not walk as fast (not that I’m fast!), I’m not sure I would be so confident crossing the street.
I also made my way further north to the Florence Community Center and Library on Bondesson street. Some community members noted that kids often run across the street there to get to and from the community center and library, as there is no crosswalk directly in front of those buildings. To cross at a crosswalk you have to walk about a block to the traffic light. I walked from the community center to the crosswalk and crossed N. 30th street. This intersection was a bit more unexpected because N. 30th street, coming from the north, curves and has a slight grade to where these buildings are so you can’t always see what vehicles are coming around the bend. A car could speed up and not see if someone just happened to me running across N. 30th street. The walk in general was extremely loud with vehicles rattling by me. I was there mid afternoon, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like during rush hour and trying to run across that busy street.
The overall feel of the area is off since it's such a community and residential based area with heavy traffic that interrupts it. Possible solutions that have been discussed include diverting the traffic as well as building a bridge over the Missouri River to connect the area with interstate I-680 to Iowa. These solutions are still being analyzed. In the meantime, if you have any experiences or comments on the area let us know!
More information on the study: