The Beatrice City Council Monday heard a proposal for rerouting US Highway 136 from Court Street downtown, a block south to Market. The option would divert traffic just past Second, and rejoin Court near the Eighth Street intersection. A Lincoln engineering firm, Olsson and Associates, addressed the issue, which first surfaced in response to a 2011 study by RDG Planning that suggested downtown revitalization would better be accomplished directing heavy traffic, especially truck traffic, from the central corridor. Key issues were covered. Among those, environmental impact would be minimal, and there is no existing safety or capacity concerns with such a move. The largest obstacle is the parking garage along US Highway 77, which they recommended removing, allowing right of way access, and opening additional property for redevelopment. That would cost an estimated $900,000.
Consideration with maintaining the historic character of the downtown, keeping its cultural and architectural elements intact would be critical. Downtown business owners spoke against the move at the meeting, reinforcing their concerns that decreased visibility and traffic would adversely affect their business. The total project is estimated at $5 million. No action was taken, as Mayor Dennis Schuster advised that the idea was something that was funded through a grant, and that any changes wouldn’t begin anytime soon. He asked the question that in spending a large sum of money, what would be invested back into the community.