Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) will not be incorporating a traffic signal at the intersection of US-34/US-75, Westside Drive and First Avenue when it upgrades a 6.83-mile stretch from Plattsmouth to Murray into a four-lane expressway.

Based on NDOT’s initial design, a stoplight was not planned for the intersection. Instead, NDOT had proposed removing the highway crossing at First Avenue by constructing a raised median. This design allows south-bound and north-bound drivers on US-34/US-75 to make left-hand turns onto Westside Drive or First Avenue.

Following an NDOT information meeting in Plattsmouth about the project in May, President of Westside Development Inc. Steve Willey asked NDOT District 2 Engineer Tim Weander to consider a traffic signal instead of blocking the crossing.

“If that intersection is to remain open, it will need a signal,” Willey said he told Weander at the meeting.

Willey said Weander told him the city of Plattsmouth would have to ask for the signal.

Willey said he emailed Plattsmouth City Administrator Erv Portis asking for a meeting about the signal. He said Portis agreed to a meeting, at which Willey said the city administrator informed that “the city is taking no position on the signal.”

In the meantime, NDOT agreed to study the need for a signal at the First Avenue crossing, and Willey said he hired E & A, an independent traffic engineer, to review the intersection. Willey said the E & A engineer concluded there was “no reason there couldn’t be a signal” there.

A letter written Sept. 20 by NDOT Roadway Design Engineer Mike Owen to Willey states the NDOT reviewed the need for a signal at the intersection of First Avenue and US-34/US-75 and the E & A study. Based on the NDOT study, “the warrants needed for the installation of a traffic signal at this location have not been met,” Owen writes.

In the letter, Owen states the proposed design will continue to include a raised median at the intersection to prohibit traffic from crossing US-34/US-75. “The raised median would redirect two of the more accident-prone movements, left turns from the side roads and driving straight across US-34/US-75. This design would provide a balance of safety and operations for this location.”

Willey contends that restricting traffic at the intersection is not in the best interest of economic development nor traffic safety, and 15 business officials and entity heads in the Westside Development vicinity agree with his position including ShopKo, Plattsmouth State Bank, Burger King, Alan Peterson, Keeler and Associates, Burgman Enterprises, First Baptist Church, Little Caesars Pizza, H & R Block, Cost Cutters, Verizon, Scooters and Plattsmouth Keno (AGT). Representatives from each have signed documents petitioning, “the city of Plattsmouth and its representatives to support and take all actions necessary to retain this intersection in its present configuration as a full-access point, either with or without installation of a traffic signals.”

No representative from Hy-Vee signed a petition.

In a letter dated July 31 from Michael Murley of NAI NP Dodge Commercial to Willey, Murley states that his company continues to market property in the Westside Development area, but is concerned about the proposed plan for the intersection.

“[Stet] With Casey’s opening and the Hy-Vee Gas, along with Hy-Vee, the addition of DJ’s Dugout, and the Retail Center on the West side of Highway 75, and the Shopko Hometown and Burger King on the East side, this sector is arguably the busiest Retail Center in the Community. Anything less than keeping this intersection open in all directions, seems inconvenient at the least and is in my opinion an obstruction to the growth of Plattsmouth Plaza, and overall economic development of the community.”

Willey presented the petitions to city council members at their Oct. 2 meeting, at which time he was allowed the three-minute citizen comment time to address the issue.

Willey contends there was no public hearing regarding the council’s approval of the NDOT’s design for the project. The council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute an agreement with NDOT approving financial participation in the project “consisting of grading, concrete pavement/surfacing, culverts, bridges, guardrail, lighting and traffic signals beginning at the south corporate limits.”

Willey said Mayor Paul Lambert said no public hearing was required or scheduled for the passage of the resolution.

Willey said he and the supporters of keeping the intersection open have not had a chance to officially voice their opinions.

“We’ve had no chance to be heard. This proposed intersection is a detriment,” Willey said. “Why have 15 people signed petitions to keep that intersection open?”

Willey said he understands the NDOT’s position on the traffic signal. “No one is disputing that the NDOT is the final authority. What we are disputing is the city’s position on the issue and lack of transparency. If the city had taken a strong position to reverse the decision to place restrictions on the intersection, this wouldn’t be happening,” he said.

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