Skip to content

October 12, 2011

27

Hundreds show up to oppose roundabout at 14th and Superior

by Deena Winter

image

Several hundred Lincolnites showed up for a public meeting Wednesday night about a controversial three-lane roundabout scheduled for construction later this month at 14th and Superior streets.

And many of them were mad.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. but the city wasn’t scheduled to begin a presentation until 6:30 p.m. By 6:28 p.m., people were getting itchy and one man stood up and started loudly asking what time it was and why the presentation wasn’t beginning. People began clapping in unison – faster and faster as if to say, “Let’s get it started.”

The city gave out full-color, glossy fliers explaining the $11 million project and the merits of the three-lane roundabout that is its centerpiece, but opponents also stood by the door handing out their own black-and-white fliers outlining concerns. The city ran out of fliers at 200.

Miki Esposito – the city’s interim public works director – was baptized by fire as she had the unenviable task of trying to run the meeting. She opened by asking people to be patient and respectful. She said her son attends Kooser Elementary School and she uses the 14th and Superior intersection to get to work.

Thomas Shafer, head of design and construction for the city public works department, told the audience he lives in North Hills and drives through the intersection about 20 times a week – and then a man started yelling at him. Shafer said the roundabout is the safest, most cost-effective option and will be able to handle more traffic than a signaled intersection. He said the intersection has had 90 accidents in three years, and cited a 2000 report that said crashes dropped 39 percent after traditional intersections were converted to roundabouts. Injury accidents dropped 76 percent and fatal or incapacitating accidents dropped nearly 90 percent, according to the report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit funded by auto insurers and associations.

But when Shafer began citing those stats, a man yelled, “That’s not true!”

When Shafer pointed to a computer simulation of what the roundabout should look like in 2025, some people hooted and howled.

“That is never gonna happen like that!” one yelled.

At that point, some people started leaving. Many people were frustrated because even though city officials say they’ve held 20 meetings on the topic, many felt city officials did not listen to them.

When City Engineer Roger Figard said the roundabout went through “a lot of process,” someone yelled “Who discussed it?”

At one point, someone asked people who supported the roundabout to raise their hands, and about a dozen did so.

The meeting seemed on the verge of spiraling out of control when Shafer wisely invited former Police Chief/current Public Safety Director Tom Casady to come up and give his opinion. In a quiet, soothing voice, Casady calmed the crowd somewhat — speaking like a teacher in control of a classroom, he said, “I’ve spent most of my adult life being yelled at by people. If you wanna hear what I have to say… before the yelling starts. If you don’t, I’ll go home and cook.”

Casady said he was skeptical before the city built the roundabout at 33rd and Sheridan Boulevard and wondered whether the city was ready for it.

“I’ve seen a lot of people in Lincoln looking at a detour sign like cattle looking at a new gate,” he said.

In the eight years before the Sheridan roundabout was installed, there were 104 crashes, 27 with injuries. In the eight years since, Casady said there have been 21 crashes, two with injuries.

However, a person yelled that the Sheridan roundabout has “One lane not three!”

As for the underpass that some people fear will be unsafe for middle school kids, Casady said it’s better than having students bolt across the street. When someone began yelling, Casady said, “Do you mind, sir?” The man kept yelling, so Casady asked the crowd, “How about everybody else?” and many applauded in agreement that the man should zip it.

After the city finished its presentation, city officials tried to steer people toward the back of the room to privately ask questions at several booths set up with renderings of the project, but they were basically buffaloed into allowing people to come up to the front of the room and ask questions via microphone.

For the rest of the meeting, people came up and asked questions, complained and occasionally offered support.

One of the leading opponents, Carol Brown, questioned why the city shelved the other option: a traditional intersection with dual left turns, two through lanes and a right turn lane.

“This is not gonna work there,” she said of the roundabout.

Figard said the city used world-renowned consultants who have done roundabouts all over the nation, and tested the new double roundabout by Memorial Stadium with semis, fire trucks and city buses — all of which were able to navigated them. But he knows roundabouts are controversial: He said typically 60 to 80 percent of people oppose them.

“Roundabouts are coming,” he said. “They’re now in the driver’s manual.”

Construction is set to begin Oct. 24 and the roundabout is scheduled to open in November 2012. The whole project — which is being paid for with all local money — is scheduled to be done in May 2013.

This is the first time I’ve seen the city allow a true public meeting to be held on a city project. The city normally sets up booths with pictures of the project and allows people to ask questions of the people manning the booths. No public presentation, no Question & Answer period, no opportunity for things to spiral out of control like they nearly did tonight. However, I applaud the city for making an exception. It was democracy in action, even though it probably makes city officials nervous and certainly the mayor will not like seeing the TV news and headlines about the rancor.

Unfortunately for opponents, I don’t think they can stop this train. After the meeting, as people were trickling out, I asked the public works director whether there was any chance the city would reconsider the roundabout.

“The project is going forward,” Esposito said, moments after a woman predicted a child would be killed in the roundabout some day, and told her she’d have blood on her hands when it happened.

Advertisements
27 Comments Post a comment
  1. cs
    Oct 12 2011

    Wahhhh…lincolnites apparently don’t know how to drive. The only number of meetings that is enough is the number that it takes for the City to bend over and leave city street engineering to the ‘experts’. After all, we have so many of them, it seems. Anyone that has driven in an actual city knows what a round a bout is, and anyone that has driven in a European city has been driving on them for YEARS. Every time an opponent says “That’s not gonna work here….” they may as well hold up an IQ sign at the same time.

    Reply
    • BUZZ
      Oct 12 2011

      CS: Weren’t these expert engineers the same people that approved the shoddy construction of the bridges on the Antelope Valley Ditch?

      Reply
  2. John Wayne
    Oct 12 2011

    Someone should have asked if they(the city) even thought about what a mess its going to be when you try to do snow removal in a multi-lane round about,its going to be a nightmare!

    Reply
  3. Matthew Platte
    Oct 12 2011

    Maybe the protesters should camp out at the intersection until their demands are met: they could call it #OccupyWalgreens.

    Reply
    • Roger C.
      Oct 13 2011

      +1

      Reply
  4. porcupine
    Oct 12 2011

    MEIN KAMPF

    Reply
  5. Carol
    Oct 12 2011

    Thank you Deena for your coverage. The meeting was a good representation of democracy in action. Let the people speak. What is wrong with that cs? Too bad our city is not listening. Gene Carrol, Carl Eskridge and Doug Emery were asked if in favor of the roundabout instead of the other option of multi-lane signaled intersection and they were in favor of the roundabout. Whats even more amazing is they are going to put stoplights at the crosswalks on 14th and Superior streets, I thought this was going to do away with signals! To top it off the city is now going to take away our ability to make left hand turns out of our neighborhood onto Superior and they are going to put in 4 U-turn sections between 14th and 27th on Superior. Good luck Campbell parents getting back home without seeing a little demolition derby action.
    So cs 300+ individuals we were able to get rallied in 7 days not to bad. Wait til elections come up next time around. This meeting will be fresh in the minds of the 300+. 12 people out of 300+ were for the roundabout amazing isn’t it cs. I hope the city has it’s liability policy paid up for the first assault,rape or yes murder in the tunnels there will be a lawsuit for unsafe conditions. People are talking about writing the mayor to put a stop to the roundabout and tunnels. Let’s see if he is listening. There are alot of angry people out there and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

    Reply
    • ej
      Oct 13 2011

      Why will these tunnels be any different from the other tunnels in town? Where are all of the assaults, rapes and yes murders in those tunnels? Yes, these tunnels are near a school, but school-age kids use the other tunnels in town, too, and I don’t recall any issues with them.

      Reply
      • spooky
        Oct 13 2011

        Full of mud,right Rodger??

    • Roger C.
      Oct 13 2011

      “I hope the city has it’s liability policy paid up for the first assault,rape or yes murder in the tunnels there will be a lawsuit for unsafe conditions”.

      This is one of the stupidest, most ignorant, over-the-top statements I have heard regarding this whole deal. Jack and John on KLIN were having a field-day with this statement this morning. This is why you people have no credibility and why the city could care less as to what you think – you come across as having no common sense and sounding like you just came out of the hills or something. Wow.

      Reply
  6. Ellie
    Oct 12 2011

    The LPlan says that round abouts “calm the traffic”. Well they sure don’t calm the citizens. They don’t represent Nebraska. They have been the rage in Europe but now Europeans are putting in stoplights in the round abouts. Why does Lincoln have to follow a UN Agenda and ICLEI’s vision. The people need to realize that they are being used to further an agenda by the mayor and the UN. Wake up Lincolnites! Keep asking questions.

    Reply
    • Roger C.
      Oct 13 2011

      OK, so this one will rank #2 on the list of wacko comments I’ve read on here. You can’t make this stuff up…

      Reply
      • John
        Oct 13 2011

        Ask the Mayor. He has already signed the city up!

  7. Carol
    Oct 12 2011

    wish I would have seen this before the meeting tonite….

    http://www.570news.com/news/local/article/287389–roundabout-protest

    Reply
  8. Erik
    Oct 13 2011

    did it ever occur to the city to make more than 200 flyers?

    Reply
  9. Daniel
    Oct 13 2011

    Turning left into one of the busiest streets in all of Lincoln is suicide. I live near 27th and South and so many of my neighbors try to turn left and it’s impossible to do that.

    Reply
  10. Tom M.
    Oct 13 2011

    In a public process, any time one has this much public response and input one needs to recognize the need to address some issues. In the Legislature they often refer to this process as achieving some sort of compromise. In the end this is a clear opportunity to craft a Win-Win solution. Defensivness accomplishes nothing. And after all, WE the voters and taxpayers are the City, elected and appointed notwithstanding.
    Where is the working together and collaboration on this one ?

    Reply
    • Carol
      Oct 13 2011

      I agree Tom. I don’t know how many times I heard individuals last night say this project was shoved down their throats. That is NOT a good image for the city officials. They offer no comprimise.

      Reply
  11. Roger Yant
    Oct 13 2011

    Deena I want to thank you for being there and reporting on it before we saw it anywhere else/ (The Urinal & Star)Great reporting!! I live on Old Cheney Rd and came in support of those in the area who do not want it. I just love the arrogance of the people from the city. You have to remember, we had no choice on the Antelope Valley, State Fair, Arena,(special election so they could get it passed) block 38, 13th & “P” new city center, we voted the new jail down, they are building it, and so much more. This is not a Republic or democracy it’s rule by a few, a small few in town. The people elected them, now we reap what comes from electing Beutler and his cronies. Lincoln will just have to put up with it, for four more years, don’t forget what has transpired with the last three mayors. Our city council is a rubber stamp for Beutler and friends
    (except for the two who try and stand up for the majority of us). This round-a-bout will be a mess, the people don’t want it, did not ask for it but will be paying for it. I guess the money will be coming from the CIP fund,? but where did that money come from? Us the tax payers? How much is actually in that CIP fund? Keep it up Deena. And for all who say I love to rant, your right, I rant for those who are afraid to be outspoken.

    Reply
    • Carol
      Oct 13 2011

      I wonder when this was voted on in the CIP? does anyone know? We were told by Eskridge and Emery that they would look out for this funding and pull the roundabout…or was that just another lie???

      Reply
  12. Publius
    Oct 13 2011

    How is this “democracy in action”? From what I gather from the report, there are a MAJORITY of upset residents in the area that oppose the plan for the round about. And yet the city will move forward with the project? This doesn’t sound like democracy.

    Reply
  13. ej
    Oct 13 2011

    So if — as the one woman predicts — a child is killed in the roundabout, there will be blood on the city’s hands, I guess if the opponents get their way and many more lives are lost at the traditional intersection they so desire (and the data clearly shows that’s likely to happen), then the blood’s all over them? Somehow, I bet that one woman doesn’t see it that way.

    Reply
  14. Jane H Kinsey
    Oct 13 2011

    This is just another example of DCity Hall doing what they want instead of what the people want. Folks, you HAVE to Vote them out! A few people fun this city and until voters get rid of
    them, we will have this dictatorship.
    Deena, the voters went to open meetings that Seng had about the by-pass and it was defeated so this open forum works if the leaders have the courage to do it. I can’t remember the year but maybe it was before you came.

    Reply
    • Oct 14 2011

      Oh I’m not saying it can’t be done; I’m saying it won’t be done.

      Reply
  15. JoAnn
    Oct 13 2011

    We attended the round-about forum. Very early in the meeting, it was evident that city officials did not want public comment at all. There were 3 city councilmen there – all in support of the round-about construction. It seems to me that our ELECTED city officials have failed to demonstrate their integrity and ethics. Remember, as elected employees of the city that voters pay for, all were elected to REPRESENT the voters in their districts, not to cram their own agendas down the throats of people living in their districts. They all indicated they would represent the voters in their districts. Many have failed to do that. They do not want public input nor do they genuinely listen to the opinions of the tax payers. It is as if, once in office, those councilmen, all of a sudden, become “experts” in what is good for the voters. All of a sudden their judgement is much wiser that those of the constituents. Apparently, those officials assume that the voters have abdicated their rights to opinion and dissent to the officials. That assumes that those officials will “look after” the needs by imposing their own values and desires on the public. Because of the attitude of superiority of those council people, very few voters believe their promises — due to so many broken promises of the past. All of the officials talk the talk, few walk the walk. Representatives should first consider the needs of their district, get feedback prior to projects, trust the intelligence of their constituents, and even give up their own personal agendas for the good of the voters, if need be. Just because someone comes up with a “new and popular idea” does NOT mean its the best idea.
    Anyone applying for a job, telling the employer how well he/she can do the job is expected to follow the direction of the employer. If that employee decides to “do his/her own thing” because he thinks he is better or smarter (regardless of the employer’s opinion), that employee will be fired and another take his place — one who is willing to meet the employer’s needs and take directions. It is unethical for elected officials to forget for whom they work and discount the concerns of the electorate to follow their own biases. A public official is a PUBLIC SERVANT. What ever happened to that idea? The folks who attended the forum gave up their precious time to attend, hoping to at least have the opportunity to voice an opinion. Their time and concerns were discounted. Long before this event, there were many attempts to try to have an OPEN meeting where opinions could be voiced. All of that was to no avail. Of course, the city had meetings — with controlled results so the city was never facing the problem of very poor communication. Who died and made the city council, mayor and engineers the only people who know what is good for the city of Lincoln? It seems we have elected people who have short memories, poor ethics, self interest, poor communication skills, feelings of superiority, or who lack competency. I’m sure soon there will be an evaluation of their job performances by voters (their employer) resulting in a “white slip.”

    Reply
  16. pirgirl
    Oct 13 2011

    Like several others posting, I attended last night’s meeting. I noticed while watching the animated roundabout film, I just kept noticing that: vehicles were stopping, and it appeared several vehicles had near crashes. Was it just me???? While I do not live anywhere near this area, I have worked at Northridge part time for the last three years, coming and going at various times during the day-even peak hours. I have never had to wait at a light more 2 or 3 minutes. 27th and O streets (I am heading south) what an absolute mess. – that’s a problem. With the current plan Walgreen’s is all but cut off. Northridge will most likely become a short cut from 14th to Superior. First time I have been to a city ‘presentation’ that they didn’t have the audience stacked in their favor. And their maps were even going in the right direction!

    Reply
  17. pirgirl
    Oct 14 2011

    Additional comment – if Mr. Duncan thinks he has problems crossing Superior to head East, wait til the roundabout is installed and there is non-traffic headed west – it seems it would twice as difficult to cross Superior since the traffic is everflowing.

    Reply

Your take

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments