Just in case there had been any misunderstandings, Hillcrest Neighborhood Assn. residents cleared the air Thursday in a meeting with city officials.
Residents don't want the city to invite increased traffic through their neighborhood by widening Ninth Street between Emery Road and Iowa Street.
An Olathe engineering firm, Wilson & Co., has recommended that the city widen the street, add a center turn lane and level out some of the crests on the hills in an effort to promote smoother traffic flow and increase safety. The three-lane recommendation was a scaled-down version of an earlier four-lane proposal that drew strong criticism.
About 40 Hillcrest neighborhood residents met Thursday night at Hillcrest School with City Manager Mike Wildgen, City Engineer Terese Gorman, Wilson & Co. engineers and Lawrence City Commissioners David Penny, Mike Rundle and Bob Schumm to discuss the latest recommendation.
DURING the meeting, the Hillcrest neighbors reiterated their belief that perhaps the best solution to traffic woes on the corridor is to focus attention on the intersections on Ninth at Emery and Iowa and basically to leave the remainder of the street as it is.
"I need to know if the council has at any time considered the question that it isn't working," said neighborhood resident Juanita Bohnstedt. "We don't want to increase the traffic on this thoroughfare. Why don't you go back to Emery Road and improve it at the initial state that you've considered and leave the rest of it alone?"
Ric Johnson, an engineer with Wilson & Co., told the group that focusing work on the two intersections alleviates some current capacity problems, but doesn't adequately address other safety issues.
"AS IT EXISTS right now, the entire corridor operates at a level of service F, which is failure. It's terrible. If you can go with the three-lane alternative by improving Iowa and Ninth and the Ninth and Emery intersection . . . we can build this up to a level of service that is satisfactory," Johnson said.
The neighbors say that widening Ninth will cause a number of problems. Leveling portions of the street, they say, could adversely affect the foundations of homes abutting the street. The improvements also would bring increased traffic, making it more difficult for motorists entering Ninth from neighborhood side streets.
But the biggest concern expressed by the neighbors was the widening's effect on school children.
"WE LIVE in an area right now where there's been a lot of turnover in homes, and all the turnover has been to families with children," said Alice Lieberman, who is the secretary of the newly formed neighborhood group. "It is absurd that we can live two blocks away from school and our children can't walk to school. That's what's going to happen if this thing goes in."
The commissioners in attendance told the neighborhood group that no decisions have been made yet, but that the city is trying to promote safety.
"The idea is not to increase traffic, but to improve the safety," Schumm said. "I think, whether we like it or not and I've got mixed emotions about it the city is growing. It's going to continue to add trip movements on these streets."
Johnson and his staff will get more work before the issue is settled. They'll be asked to look at another alternative that takes out the third lane but includes areas for bus loading and perhaps a widened intersection near Ninth and Avalon. Neighbors indicated they may support such a plan.