Island surprise in south central Omaha angers business owners

Desy Papper

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – A change in street access has caught some business owners off guard in south central Omaha. They claim the city took action without warning and it will cost them customers and money. Three businesses claim that the new island will cause customers to cruise on by. […]

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – A change in street access has caught some business owners off guard in south central Omaha. They claim the city took action without warning and it will cost them customers and money.

Three businesses claim that the new island will cause customers to cruise on by.

“Because once people pass they don’t come back, turn around and come back. They go to some hotel right down the street,” said motel owner, Mike Patel.

The median on 60th Street has been extended past K Street which is the primary access to an auto repair service, a muffler shop, and a hotel.

With customers coming from the south cut off from turning in and those wanting to go north unable to do so, these business owners are concerned their bottom line is going to take a turn for the worse.

Gary Hempel owns an auto repair shop.

“Well, I think people want the convenience. They don’t want to have to go out of their way to get somewhere. If they can’t find us they’ll go right by to the next shop,” said Hempel.

K Street is a dead end to the west so no getting in that way. The business owners say for decades, they depended on the left turn off 60th for customers coming from the south.

“I’ve seen a drop off in just the last week in my own business. Hopefully, it doesn’t continue that way but I’m getting more and more customers complaining to me about accessibility,” said Muffler & Brake Shop Owner, Keith Pauley.

Omaha’s traffic engineer says the longer median provides greater safety on 60th by creating a right in right out only at K Street. He says the same island extension at 132nd and West Center has significantly reduced crashes there.

Back on 60th, the business owners don’t see a need for it here.

“It has been safe, and my shop started in 85, so I don’t see why there’s a problem with it,” said Hempel.

A new high school will open across the street so the city traffic engineer says the meidan gives 60th Street better mobility. The business owners won’t say the same about the flow of information.

“No we did not know nothing about it, this was a surprise to us,” said Patel.

The city traffic engineer apologized to Keith for a lack of communication and he will set up a meeting to explain the reasons for the median extension. He stresses that customers still have access to the business but the owners say the island has them feeling partially stranded.

“They already put the median in and stuff so what can we do about it now,” said Pauley.

Omaha’s traffic engineer says 60th Street is federally classified as an arterial. So, the city’s master plan calls for full access intersections to be spaced a quarter mile a part.

In this case, that means K Street is too close to the major intersection of 60th and L.

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