17th Street closure

Construction signs are pictured on 17th Street on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A change is in the works for 17th Street on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus.

The Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Commission recently voted in favor of permanently vacating the section of N 17th Street between Vine Street and X Street.

According to director of Campus Planning and Environment Emily Deeker, UNL is petitioning to vacate 17th Street due to construction of the new engineering building just east of Othmer Hall. She said the lack of traffic brought on by the closure will aid in the construction process.

“[The building] will be built essentially right where 17th Street is so it’ll help to not have traffic while they’re building,” interim associate vice president for facilities management Brooke Hay said. 

Hay also said closing 17th Street should decrease vehicular traffic on campus and make campus more pedestrian friendly. 

“The most recent master plan … shows those several blocks closing and being pedestrian only and having that be a very positive thing with academic and residential buildings that are on that side of campus,” she said.

This UNL campus and landscape master plan has been in the works since 2013. According to Hay, the changes started with 16th Street becoming a two-way road and continued when the portion of 17th Street south of Vine Street was closed during the Cather-Pound demolition. 

Deeker said it may be several months before City Council approves UNL’s purchase of the street and it is vacated. The exact timeline will depend on if City Council approves the vacation right away or if they ask for additional information.

According to Deeker, meetings with the City of Lincoln have been helpful in ensuring the closure of 17th Street will not have a negative impact on the community.

“[The closure] should only be a benefit,” Hay said. “If you live in Abel Sandoz and want to cross 17th Street, there no longer will be any regular vehicle traffic. If you’re walking down the street, there will no longer be cross traffic coming those ways; same if you’re riding a bike.”

Hay also expects a smooth adjustment for people who travel through 17th Street via vehicle. She said most of these people will now take Antelope Valley Parkway instead.

“We also work really carefully with Lincoln Fire and Rescue to make sure they have everything they need,” Hay said. “There may very well continue to be some emergency access from Vine Street to the north after the closing.”

Overall, Hay said she is looking forward to seeing more of the 2013 master plan carried out and the benefits it will bring. 

“It is really interesting to see when you envision some new opportunities in a master plan, and you start to see those come to life,” she said.