Olsson Associates

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Long-awaited improvements to an Omaha, Nebraska, road to get underway

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Linda Van Hoosen, Communications

You’re sitting in what seems like an endless line of traffic. It’s barely moving. You’re anxious to get home from a long day. Frustration kicks in and you wonder why the road is only two lanes. This has been the case for many rush hour drivers on a two-mile stretch of Harrison Street in Omaha. The road is two lanes, and it has seen an increasing amount of traffic over the last few years. About 16,000 vehicles travel down Harrison Street each day, and it’s expected to increase to 36,000 vehicles by 2040. This is southwest Omaha: an area of rapid expansion that includes many new neighborhoods and the traffic that goes with it. It is also the county line between Sarpy and Douglas counties.

In 2014, Sarpy County, the City of Omaha, and Douglas County worked out an agreement to widen Harrison Street in West Omaha to four lanes from 144th Street to 157th Street. Olsson Associates was hired to design the new roadway. Currently, the corridor has limited sidewalks, ditches, and no turn lanes into neighborhoods. The lack of turn lanes is a major cause for slowed traffic on the street.

“Sarpy County, the lead agency in the project, had hoped to do the whole two-mile stretch as far as design, build the first mile, and have the second mile ready to go,” said Tony Egelhoff, Olsson assistant  project manager. “But, the money wasn’t there for the second mile, so, we focused on the first mile.”

The first mile extends from 144th Street or Highway 50 to 157th Street. Designing this corridor had its challenges—overhead power lines, underground  duct banks for fiber optics, a large 36-inch water   main along with other water and gas mains. Tony said the Olsson team worked through these challenges and coordinated with many utilities to determine where to relocate the power lines and mains.

“Another unique aspect of this corridor is that everything is in a kind of bowl,” said Tony. “A lot of   the development is above the roadway. So, when we go through to do the widening of the street, many areas will require retaining walls.”

14,000 square feet of retaining walls to be exact. There will also be over 50,000 square feet of noise wall to protect nearby neighborhoods from traffic noise. These will also act as retaining walls. A study identified three major sections that needed noise walls. The walls will be built in the right of way, which required detailed phasing with the overhead power line relocations.

“We were able to work with the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) to relocate their power line to the opposite side. However, one of the noise wall sections will also be on the same side as the relocated power lines. We worked out a schedule with OPPD to allow us to build the noise wall first, and then they would finish relocating the power line.”

Convincing the public was also a challenge. Tony says everyone knows this is a horrible stretch of roadway that needed improvement. With no turn lanes, access into the neighborhoods is limited, and many of the access points were offset from each other in a way that prevents providing access to everyone.

“We had to go through, evaluate, and determine where it made sense to put in a left turn lane.”                                           
The project team and agencies had meetings with homeowners explaining why certain access points will have turn lanes and why others won’t. Tony said they explained that the improvements will allow better traffic movement and reduce drivers’ travel time.

Construction begins in early November starting with a noise wall and some drainage improvements. Work on the roadway is expected to begin next spring. Olsson provided survey, geotechnical investigation, environmental permitting, noise study, structural design, utility coordination, roadway design, material testing, and public involvement services for this project.

 

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