The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is the City of Lincoln’s six-year program that plans for significant improvements across the City. The CIP compiles all City projects to be budgeted in the next two years or planned for over the next six years.”1 This statement is how the City of Lincoln begins the introduction to the CIP posted on their website, yet so many opportunities for growth are missing.
Last year, LIBA submitted testimony to the City Council and published an article asking for our City to embrace a growth mindset for future growth. I specifically pointed to the quick completion schedule for the South Beltway and how our City needs to start moving toward growth-minded policies to enhance growth with the coming of the beltway. There are some great examples of how a forward-thinking city can really foster growth right here in Nebraska. First, if you have been to Omaha in the last several years, you will notice the explosion of growth along the Dodge Street Expressway. Just a few short decades ago, West Dodge didn’t have the retail, restaurant, residential, or commercial growth it sees today. Simply put, the infrastructure investment has paid dividends to the general funds available to the City of Omaha.
Over the past 20 years, the Highway 6 corridor from Gretna to Elkhorn has experienced a tremendous amount of growth since the highway was expanded from two to four lanes. We now see expansion of retail, restaurants, movie theaters, residential, commercial, and industrial all along the corridor. There was foresight and investment in infrastructure in order to grow toward the expanded highway.
These are two areas where infrastructure investment has paid dividends to help grow. It is past due for the City of Lincoln to bring forth a growth plan to develop the corridor along the South Beltway. With the completion date approaching quickly, we see little-to-no progress on the part of the City of Lincoln to embrace a plan to allow for growth and development along the corridor, which will offer prime new development area for manufacturing, commercial, and residential. The City of Lincoln has the resources to reallocate funds to invest in the infrastructure necessary to make growth a priority for our community. We must embrace a collective vision of growth and invest in infrastructure in order to make this happen. Over the course of the past several years, LIBA has put in the time to review the city budgets and understand where there are seemingly pots of money ready to be invested in infrastructure.
Forward-thinking investments in infrastructure will create an additional revenue source for our community with additional general fund revenue through property tax revenue from development and sales tax revenue generated by growth in retail, restaurants, etc. From the reports we have heard, the City is currently receiving approximately $1,000,000 per month in sales tax revenues above projections. Those general fund receipts can and should be used for infrastructure investment. Making investments in the future of our city will pay dividends for years to come. It is time for the City of Lincoln to look forward, have a growth mindset and invest their excess revenues in building for growth. Furthermore, investments in infrastructure for growth purposes could be a strategy to address the workforce housing issues in our community.
The discussion on a growth mindset happened a year ago and here we are with no progress from the City to invest in infrastructure and growth to build a strong future for our city along the South Beltway corridor. That needs to change, and change soon.