Lincoln neighborhoods want chunk of potential tax hike

By: Jenn Schanz

Since the 70s, the Nebraska Department Of Roads has been working on a way to get those semis off Lincoln's main stretch, Highway 2.

It's the South Beltway Project. After years on the back burner, design efforts picked up in 2013.

“We've seen support from most of the people that we've talked to the project about,” says Michael Owen, a design engineer for the Nebraska Department Of Roads.

The project would start on US 77 near between Bennet and Saltillo roads, and end on Highway 2 near south 148th street. 

So how can the city fund it?

The Legislature gave the city the option of a half-cent sales tax hike.

But first, the City Council would have to approve putting it on the November ballot, and then voters would decide.

If approved the hike would raise $22 million a year for a variety of projects, one of which is the Beltway.

Neighborhoods say they want $6 million of that.

“We just want to make sure that the neighborhoods are at the table. 6 million out of the 22 million is fair,” says Shawn Ryba, Chief Operating Officer for NeighborWorks.

He says the $6 million would help neighborhoods fix problem properties, sidewalks, and improve parks.

But the city says it's just too soon to talk about who gets what.

“I don't think we should be looking at it for 'I'm going to grab this piece of the pie and I'm entitled to this piece of the pie,' we need to looking at it in terms of our overall community needs,” says Rick Hoppe, Mayor Beutler's Chief Of Staff. 

As far as the Beltway, the city plans to include a variety of community groups in talks about how to fund it.

Construction is planned to start in 2020.