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      Construction Downtown Could Trigger Big Changes

      Paul Gutierrez

      OMAHA (KPTM) - New construction in parts of downtown Omaha may mean a little bit of a headache for drivers, but it's boosting the spirits of some people.

      "I think it's really positive for the neighborhood," said Matt Weber, a cafe owner near the work site.

      Weber is excited about what's going on because he remembers what life was like before contractors pulled out the heavy duty equipment this week.

      "Three years ago there was just a lot of empty commercial bays in the neighborhood within a three block radius of where we were."

      The project, a two-year plan the city calls the 16th Street Streetscape Project, is the first step to making the area more attractive to visitors and businesses alike. It's also designed to put the brakes on a challenge many drivers seem to face everyday.

      "Parking can be a challenge down here," said Weber.

      So the city will add close to 100 new spaces; something that has Weber beaming with excitement.

      "I think it's going to make the neighborhood more functional and allow traffic to flow better through the neighborhood."

      The new construction will also pave the way for fresh, new trees in parts of downtown. It will also reduce heavy bus traffic that's frustrated drivers in recent years.

      The city estimates the total cost of the project will top $1 million.

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