The Lawrence City Commission is giving initial approval to a plan city officials say will improve traffic flow on a major thoroughfare near downtown, but the improvements mean the loss of parking spaces for adjacent residences and businesses.
Commissioners, in a study session Monday afternoon, directed the public works department to proceed with plans to convert Sixth Street from Maine to Kentucky into a five-lane road complete with a center turn lane. The plan won't require any additional widening of the roadway, but will mean that most parking spaces on the street will be removed.
In addition, commissioners discussed improvements they want the city to study on Ninth Street, east of Emery Road.
"It's going to be an imposition to some folks," Public Works Director George Williams told commissioners regarding the Sixth Street plan. "We think it's worth it."
WILLIAMS said that since Sixth Street is without a center turn lane east of Maine, a single car attempting to make a left turn can back up a whole lane of traffic. The problem, he said, is especially apparent during the morning and evening rush hours.
Not only would a fifth lane alleviate that problem, he said, it also would tie into the existing five-lane layout on Sixth west of Maine Street.
But, Williams said, "if we allow parking any place it's going to ruin the whole scheme."
Under the plan presented to commissioners, parking would be removed in front of residences on Sixth from Tennessee to Indiana. A row of angle parking now existing in front of several businesses located on Sixth between Indiana and Mississippi either would be converted to parallel parking or would be completely removed.
COMMISSIONERS directed city officials to contact the Old West Lawrence and Pinckney Neighborhood associations and each of the residents and business along the corridor to gauge reaction to the plan.
The conversion would take place in conjunction with a resurfacing project scheduled this summer for Sixth Street, from Maine to Massachusetts.
Commissioners also met with representatives from Wilson and Co., an Olathe engineering firm that has been studying ways to improve sight lines at the intersection of Ninth and Emery.
The engineers presented commissioners with five options for the intersection. The options ranged from moving back a retaining wall on the south side of Ninth Street to widening the street, moving back the retaining wall and regrading the street to cut down on vertical sight obstacles.
COMMISSIONERS decided they liked the three-pronged approach to improving the intersection. Before proceeding with any work, however, they want to expand the study to include consideration of widening Ninth to Avalon Road and onto Highland Drive.
The expanded study will include a look at the implications of widening the existing two lanes on Ninth, adding a third turn lane and converting the corridor to a four-lane road.
Commissioners, in discussing the improvements on Ninth Street, said it could have a role similar to other east-west corridors such as Sixth, 19th and 23rd streets. Improvements have taken place or are scheduled to take place on those streets.
"This is just as important an artery as those are," Commissioner Bob Walters said.
The work on Ninth could be started as early as this summer, Acting City Manager Mike Wildgen said.