Omaha is growing.
If there was any doubt, all you need to do is drive west and north to see several major road construction projects underway to accommodate increased traffic. That also means it’s a busy time for OPPD crews.
As highways are repaved and major thoroughfares are widened, relocating electrical equipment is often necessary. With several large road construction projects around the service territory, it takes good coordination and communication between contractors, cities, counties, the state and OPPD to make sure the projects are completed on-time and within budget.
But when and where the projects occur can shift like pieces on a chess board as new developments go in.
pieces of a puzzle
For example, the work on the West Farm mixed-use development near Boys Town meant roads projects were rescheduled to accommodate.
Below is just a sampling of current roads projects involving OPPD. Most require relocating electrical equipment to allow for street widening and intersection improvements.
- 114th Street from Pacific to Burke
- 144th Street for West Farm development
- 168th Street from West Dodge Road to Maple Street
- 132nd Street and West Center Road
- 156th Street north of Dodge (in preparation for street improvements in coming years)
Todd McLochlin, manager of utilities and right of way coordination at OPPD, said it is unusual for road projects to be concentrated in one area, as they are usually spread out across the metro. But with the development occurring in this area, there was more of an urgent need to address work.
“We will work with the cities and counties to get a design on the roads four to six years before construction even starts,” he said.
OPPD is involved in the projects starting at the design phase, when the utility identifies infrastructure in the area and communicates what work would need to be done to accommodate. That can help the city, county or state adjust their design. The same is done with infrastructure for water, gas and cable companies, among others.
The early involvement helps reduce the need to relocate equipment, which helps reduce costs for taxpayers and utility customers alike.
There are also times when development may put a project on the fast track. Connecting 180th Street from West Dodge Road to Maple Street is such an example. In that case, new housing developments spurred on the need for better access to this main west Omaha thoroughfare.
McLochlin said that project has been around for 10 to 15 years, but put on hold because the traffic levels did not justify the cost. But developers in the area provided additional funding for access lanes and other connections that help it move faster. That project is now slated to start within the next several years.
OPPD’s work on these roads projects involves a little bit of everything: moving overhead distribution to underground; shifting overhead from one side of the street to another; and transmission line work.
Location, location, location
McLochlin said what makes this year more complex is that the city has grown to the point where it’s reached OPPD’s outer ring of transmission lines, built years and years ago in what used to be rural areas.
“Now that the city’s grown into that we’re starting to realize some of the impacts as it crosses over that threshold,” he said.