The vote is NOT on whether to actually build the street. As such, a vote to overturn the city council's action returns the proposed bluff road the same status it has had since 1964 � a plan feature that the council has several times voted wisely against building.
There are certainly traffic flow issues in Vermillion that should be addressed by proactive planning. But these problems would not be solved by creating a major new through route on the east side of town, the practical result of the proposal for Crawford Road.
The real question here is how the city of Vermillion grows, plans for growth, and implements those plans, called "urban systems planning." Experts will tell you that urban planning in the 21st century is about creating opportunities by proactively anticipating development trends. It is not about reacting to development after the fact. If we want Vermillion to continue to grow, we have to provide the water, sewer, electric service, and streets in the desired growth areas. By doing this proactively, we guide and manage the growth, because growth will take place first where these services already exist.
In the nine years since the LAST time Crawford Road was extended, the town has grown to fill in the area to the west and north of BluffView Cemetery, based on the street system the city provided (not the "maybe" of the 40-year-old plan). Whatever the fate of the Crawford Road extension, it will serve as a precedent for future street projects in the rest of the community. As a result, we should look at the November vote from a precedent and public policy point of view, not from a personal convenience or inconvenience point of view.
It is not good policy to carve out "new" main arteries through established neighborhoods, anywhere in Vermillion. The Crawford Road extension plan, coupled with the Vermillion Transportation Study proposal to change a large section of Crawford Road from a "minor arterial" to a "major collector" street would change a "local traffic" neighborhood into a "through traffic" neighborhood. That will definitely change the character of the residential areas lining Crawford Road and reduce safety (because there are no sidewalks, pedestrians walk in the street along much of Crawford Road).
Any bluff road should
guide new growth
If we determine that Vermillion needs a new road over the bluff, it should be done in an area not currently developed, such as east of the golf course. If not already done, streets and a development plan (officially called a "plat") are bound to be laid out for that area in the relatively near future. This undeveloped area is the place to locate a new bluff road, so that it guides new growth, not squeezes something in after the fact of development.
Keep through traffic out
In my opinion, any possible new bluff road should NOT provide a direct shot to Highway 50. All of the stated needs relate to access within the city of Vermillion. Many of the stated objections relate to through traffic that is guaranteed to result from the defacto bypass a straight shot from Old Highway 50 to New Highway 50 would constitute.
No part of Vermillion, existing or future, would benefit from such a new through street. Rather, any new bluff road should be built with an efficient connection to Main Street, and thus the rest of town, but NOT as a street that continues on to Cherry Street. The through traffic should be sent another way that does not pass through residential neighborhoods.
Old Highway 50 needs
It is also obvious that the idea of Old Highway 50 serving as a residential street has major problems. If we want residential neighborhoods to develop below the bluff, we need to rebuild and widen the old highway, adding safe sidewalks, to encourage growth and to better serve those neighborhoods. It is another project we should not do reactively, after growth has already happened.
No matter where they are in Vermillion, new major through streets, should be created to guide growth into new areas, as opposed to transforming existing neighborhoods. Local government should play a proactive role in managing growth. Growth should not be addressed in a piece-meal and reactive way, but rather in a progressive, proactive way that anticipates needs and minimizes undesirable and unintended side effects. The Crawford Road proposal does none of these things.
Extending Crawford Road over the bluff would create a major new route that would be ideal for Nebraska traffic traveling back and forth to Interstate 29, while carrying little local traffic. It would not solve the safety problems on Old Highway 50. Most important, it would transform residential streets on which young children live into high-traffic, high-risk thoroughfares for non-local cars and pickups.
The time to create a main artery street over the bluff at Crawford Road has passed. If it was needed, it should have been done 10, or 20, or more years ago, before the area developed.