City commissioners were warned Tuesday night of what motorists will become aware of this summer -- traffic congestion is coming to Downtown Lawrence.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting were briefed on two major water-line replacement projects that are expected to begin in April and end in August. The two projects will close lanes of traffic on busy portions of Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
But city staff members for the first time are asking construction crews to work Saturdays in an attempt to get the projects done as quickly as possible.
"The Downtown Lawrence association asked us to get in and out as quick as possible, and that's what we're trying to do," said Chris Stewart, the city's assistant utilities director for water.
Stewart outlined two projects for commissioners:
- Sixth Street. Crews will replace an aging water line from Tennessee to Massachusetts streets. One lane of eastbound traffic will be closed for several weeks during the project. Both lanes of westbound traffic are expected to remain open. Work on the project likely will begin in April. City officials have allowed for 45 working days to complete the project. The contractor, which hasn't been selected yet, could be fined $500 per day for each day the project extends beyond the 45 working days.
- Massachusetts Street: Crews will replace an outdated water line from Sixth Street to Seventh Street. During several weeks of construction, Massachusetts will become a one-way street. Construction crews will block off the southbound lane of the street. As part of the project, crews also will replace a water line on Seventh Street from Massachusetts Street to New Hampshire Street. Both lanes of traffic will be open during construction, but parking on both sides of Seventh Street will be closed during parts of the construction process. The entire project is expected to take 35 working days. The contractor could be fined $1,000 per day for each day the contract is late.
Maria Martin, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said she believes merchants and shoppers will be able to cope with the construction.
"We think it will work out fine if everybody is notified far enough ahead and there's proper signage to drivers," Martin said. "And we think it is important to get the public to realize that this project is a huge improvement to their community."
City officials said the project was an important one. The water lines that will be replaced are more than 100 years old and are similar in condition to the water line that broke in late January at Ninth and Massachusetts streets and required several business to close for the day.
"This project will lower our risk of something like that happening again," said Debbie Van Saun, assistant city manager.
City officials also said they would be sensitive to notifying businesses and drivers. A large electronic bulletin board is scheduled to be placed on the routes to notify drivers of the road construction. Posters also will be distributed to downtown merchants to place in their storefront windows.
This work is budgeted to cost $650,000.
Traffic-calming devices given green light
Two West Lawrence streets -- Harvard Road and Congressional Drive -- will receive a variety of traffic-calming devices to slow speeders, city commissioners decided Tuesday.
Commissioners, though, did not identify a funding source for the approximately $95,000 worth of projects, or set a timetable for the improvements. Commissioners said they would discuss funding options for traffic-calming devices at future budget sessions, the first of which is this morning.
The improvements will include two "gateway treatments," and four "speed cushions" on portions of Harvard Road and Congressional Drive near the area of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
Gateway treatments are devices that could involve narrowing the road at an entrance to a neighborhood or putting up monuments or markers to visually alert drivers that they are about to enter a neighborhood. Speed cushions are similar to speed humps.
Agreement with KU headed for hearing
Commissioners unanimously agreed to send a proposed land-use agreement between the city and Kansas University to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for a public hearing.
The proposed agreement, which has been the subject of negotiations for months, would create a process to involve neighbors and city officials in the planning of university construction projects that happen within 150 feet of an existing neighborhood.
Commissioners Sue Hack and David Dunfield also took the step of urging planning commissioners to approve the agreement.
"This (agreement) can be a model for other communities," Hack said. "I would hope the planning commission looks upon this favorably."
Development plans on East 11th stalled
Developers will have to wait for an undetermined amount of time if they want to redevelop an East Lawrence property that formerly housed a livestock sale barn.
Commissioners sided with neighbors who asked that a one-year extension of a site plan for 911 E. 11th St. be denied. The plan would have allowed for the future development of an industrial building on the site.
The site plan had received three previous extensions since it was first approved in 2000. But this time members of the Brook Creek and East Lawrence neighborhoods objected to the extension. Neighborhood and city officials are developing an area plan that would guide the redevelopment of the former Santa Fe Railway corridor, which runs through the neighborhoods.
The former sale barn site now will be covered by a building permit moratorium that will run until the area plan is completed.