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Archive for Tuesday, August 11, 1998

INTERSECTION UPGRADE

August 11, 1998

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A massive expansion of the intersection at 15th and Iowa streets probably isn't the city's top traffic priority right now.

It's hard to imagine that the intersection at 15th and Iowa Streets presents the most pressing demand in Lawrence for $2 million in traffic improvements.

That's the plan, however, that Lawrence city commissioners will look at tonight.

A traffic consultant has recommended a huge restructuring of the intersection, which serves as a major entrance to the Kansas University campus. The university is planning to open a new visitors center near the intersection in November and officials want to make the intersection as user-friendly as possible. Regular backups also are reported at the intersection in the morning and afternoon ``rush hours.''

The intersection also is under considerable pressure during home football and basketball games and other major university events, but such isolated instances may not justify the sort of massive reconfiguration the consultant is recommending.

The study, which already has cost the city and university $10,000, recommends a $2 million expansion of the intersection. Left-turn lanes already exist on all four sides of the intersection, but the consultant's plan calls for two left-turn lanes in every direction. It also would add right-turn lanes for southbound vehicles turning west onto 15th and for westbound vehicles turning north onto Iowa.

The close proximity of a church on the northwest corner of the intersection and the difficult terrain at the northeast corner would seem to indicate that most of the land for the expansion would have to come on the south side of 15th Street. It also seems obvious that improvements would be necessary to 15th Street which narrows to a two-lane street just east of the intersection.

The real question, however, is whether the traffic congestion at the intersection is frequent and severe enough to justify such an expensive project. Could the situation be eased by taking such actions as installing improved traffic signals or encouraging university employees to use alternate routes?

Iowa and 15th Streets is a major intersection that is experiencing some periodic problems, but many local residents would argue that traffic-flow problems at, say, 23rd and Iowa Streets are more pressing and affect more motorists.

If the city is going to ask the state for $2 million in state highway funds, it seems doubtful that 15th and Iowa is the most important place to spend that money. Mayor Marty Kennedy said it was time to get the project on the Kansas Department of Transportation's ``wish list.'' That might be a good idea to prepare for long-term needs at the intersection, but the city would seem to have more pressing traffic needs to address right now.

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