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Plans

Caitlin Bolte, back right, of Confluence, discusses options for enhancing portions of 23rd Street with local residents during a September 2018 meeting at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. The Nebraska Department of Transportation is hosting a public meeting on the 23rd Street project on Feb. 12.

There’s been much discussion about the 23rd Street corridor revamp project in the last six months, but now the general public has its chance to weigh in.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation will host its second information open house about it from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday at the American Legion, 2263 Third Ave. in Columbus.

“We’re getting closer to our final package. What we’re doing is we want to get public input on what we designed,” NDOT District 3 Engineer Kevin Domogalla told The Telegram.

The proposed project would reconstruct about 2.69 miles of the existing pavement on 23rd Street starting just east of the north junction of U.S. Highway 81 and 23rd Street, and extending just east of the East 11th Avenue intersection, as previously reported. Work would also include reconstruction of sidewalks, curb ramps, curb inlets and storm sewers. Roadway lighting and traffic signals would be updated.

With NDOT updating the roads, the city saw an opportunity to make some enhancements, as well. Money for streetscaping is coming out of the city’s general fund, after previously being approved by the Columbus City Council.

“The Council felt the concept had merit but needed some parameters. The $500,000 was arrived at as an amount that we felt made sense and something we could support,” Mayor Jim Bulkley told The Telegram in September 2018. “...But in addition, the Council felt the ‘first impression’ visitors get while driving into Columbus was important. And this was worthy of supporting. We understand that some people would be satisfied with nothing but concrete. And others would spend much more to see what they feel is beautiful. We want something that is welcoming and functional and we believe the general public will agree.”

Members of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s transportation and streetscaping committees, along city officials, have been meeting periodically with consultants from Wilson & Company and Confluence, hired by the Nebraska Department of Transportation, who are working on the streetscaping elements.

“It’s a great time to put in streetscaping improvements,” Chamber Board of Directors Chairman Dennis Grennan said as the reasoning for doing streetscaping in conjunction with NDOT’s road improvements. “The overall project is an NDOT project, so it is really being driven by the street. It has been 30 years since a major improvement has been made, so it’s time.”

Grennan said as great of a community as Columbus is, it also could use a bit of a makeover along 23rd.

“It’s the front door to Columbus coming in from the east. It’s the first impression to make on people coming into our community,” Grennan said. “You only get one chance at a first impression. It’s kind of like walking up to the front door of your house. It’s that impression that sticks. It’s the right thing to do.”

Domogalla said he and other NDOT representatives will be at the open house-style meeting to specifically discuss the roads aspect, adding officials like Wilson & Company's Matt Bryant are expected to be there to discuss streetscaping. Grennan said he plans to be in attendance as well.

“I think there has been really good progress made in developing the master plan for streetscaping,” Grennan said. “More detail and information will be provided.”

Construction is tentatively scheduled for the 2022 and 2023 construction seasons, according to NDOT. The proposed project would be constructed under traffic with lane closures controlled with approved traffic control. Additional project information will be provided at the public meeting.

NDOT personnel will be available to answer questions, receive comments and discuss any aspect of the proposed highway improvement project. Information regarding the project will be available after the meeting on the NDOT website www.dot.nebraska.gov/projects/future-projects/ by clicking on the “23rd St, Columbus ” link.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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Managing Editor

Matt Lindberg is an award-winning journalist and graduate of the University of Kansas.

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