Lawrence city commissioners are set to consider a plan that would add a center turn lane to a busy section of Sixth Street that leads into downtown.
At their meeting this evening, commissioners will hear a proposal to restripe the stretch of Sixth Street between Maine and Massachusetts streets to allow for a left-hand turn lane.
City officials cite the number of accidents that occur along the section of road as a reason for the improvements.
"There are several different safety issues there," said Chuck Soules, director of the city's public works department.
From 2001 to 2003, there were 39 accidents on the stretch of road, including 13 that involved injuries.
"You have a situation where everybody is going and then somebody decides they need to stop and make a turn and that leads to a rear-end accident," Soules said. "Then there are people who get impatient and take too big of a chance to make a left-hand turn."
The project, which could begin this summer, will not require widening the existing road. Soules said the center turn lane could be added by taking advantage of an unused shoulder on the north side of the road. The shoulder previously was a parking zone for the adjacent neighborhood, but city commissioners outlawed parking on that side of the road several years ago.
Under the proposal, city crews would stripe the road for four 11- foot lanes, plus a 12-foot center turn lane. Currently, the road has four 12-foot lanes, plus the unused shoulder.
Parking on the south side of the road would still be allowed.
The plan has created some neighborhood concern. The Old West Lawrence Neighborhood Assn. has written a letter opposing the project. Resident Lucille Marino said she was concerned the turn lane would encourage more people to turn onto the side streets.
"I think it could be dangerous," Marino said. "I think the city needs to think of this as a highway with a limited number of off ramps."
City Commissioner David Schauner, though, said he wanted to give the idea serious consideration. He said he didn't think adding a turn lane would necessarily cause more people to turn into the neighborhoods.
"I think the purpose is to make those left turns that already are occurring happen more safely," Schauner said.
The idea for the center turn lane received a unanimous recommendation from the city's Traffic Safety Commission. The Kansas Department of Transportation also has endorsed the idea.
If approved, the project would be done in conjunction with a planned repaving of the road, which is slated for June or July. Soules said much of the restriping on the road would occur between Maine and Tennessee streets because there are left-hand turn lanes for intersections between Massachusetts and Tennessee streets.
City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.