Farnam Street Could Become Two-Way, All Day if Roundabouts are Installed

(Omaha, NE) -- A study on converting Farnam Street to two-way traffic permanently shows the switch can happen, if safety improvements are made.

The engineering and traffic analysis of Farnam Street was done between Dodge Street and Saddle Creek, which switches to one-way traffic twice a day. Farnam changes to one way in each direction during the morning and evening rush hours due to high traffic volume.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert's office says the analysis and report from Felsburg Holt & Ullevig shows removing traffic signals and building roundabouts at two intersections along Farnam, at 50th and 52nd, are the best option to improve safety. “This is simply about safety, for all users of the road and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said City Engineer Todd Pfitzer. “The data shows the problem and how to correct it. Roundabouts slow down traffic, reduce crashes and eliminate red light running.”

FHU studied crash data, speed, traffic signals, and past, current and projected traffic volumes from 2015 to 2020. The speed limit on Farnam Street through the study area is posted at 30 miles per hour. Over the study period, four intersections on Farnam between Dodge and Saddle Creek had a crash rate almost double the average crash rate in Omaha. More than half of the crashes happen when Farnam is two-way.

  • Saddle Creek Road & Farnam (77 crashes; 25 Injury, 52 Property Damage)
  • 50th Street & Farnam (35 crashes; 13 Injury, 22 Property Damage)
  • Happy Hollow Blvd & Farnam (36 crashes; 11 Injury, 25 Property Damage)
  • 52nd and Farnam (25 crashes, 10 Injury, 15 Property Damage Only)

At both the 50th and 52nd Street intersections, currently managed with traffic signals, FHU found more than half of the crashes were caused by drivers running red lights. The report concluded the intersections would not be able to safely handle the volume of traffic without modifications and concluded angle type crashes caused by red light runners could be mitigated by a roundabout.

The analysis also showed the traffic signals currently at both intersections will not effectively reduce crashes, and rear-end crashes could potentially increase due to one-lane traffic and no left-turn lanes at intersections. Studies show that a single-lane roundabout also provides a safer pedestrian crossing than a traffic signal. “In order to permanently convert to two-way traffic and provide acceptable traffic operations, improvements to the intersections must be made in addition to the removing the lane assignment signals and signing and striping,” according to the FHU report.

FHU also studied other intersection improvements including construction of left turn lanes and left/right turn lanes. Neither provided the safety benefits of a roundabouts. Mayor Jean Stothert supports the recommendation, “Omaha is a Vision Zero city. The Farnam Street project is a perfect application of the Vision Zero principles, to reduce and eventually eliminate traffic deaths.”

The projected cost to convert Farnam Street to permanent two-way operations, with the recommended intersection improvements is $1.75 million, which is included in the Capital Improvement Program. The design phase for the Farnam Street conversion will begin this year, construction is expected in 2024. The Omaha City Council would have to sign off on the design plan.

If two-way conversion of Farnam Street is pursued, rearrangement of bus stops, pedestrian crossings, bicycle facilities may need to be altered.

Additional information about the project is available here.

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