The portion of Sixth Street leading into downtown Lawrence should become safer for motorists under a plan approved by City Commissioners on Tuesday.
Now the question becomes whether the plan will detract from the livability of residents in adjacent Old West Lawrence and Pinckney neighborhoods.
Commissioners unanimously approved a plan to restripe Sixth Street from Maine to Massachusetts streets to allow for a center turn lane in an attempt to reduce the number of vehicle accidents.
"The number of rear accidents on this stretch is really pretty appalling," said City Commissioner David Dunfield. "We have a chance to do something here pretty simply to address this."
City traffic studies found that from 2001 to 2003, there were 39 accidents on the stretch of road, including 13 that involved injuries.
But some neighbors opposed the plan. The Old West Lawrence Neighborhood Assn. sent a letter opposing the center turn lane, citing concerns that the turn lane could increase traffic into the neighborhoods. Tim Miller, a resident of the neighborhood, told commissioners he was concerned the center turn lane would increase speeds on the road and would make the stretch more like a freeway, which would make it more difficult for pedestrians to cross.
"It will degrade life near Sixth Street," Miller said.
Commissioners ultimately disagreed.
"The last thing I want to do is do something that is opposed by neighborhoods or makes it tougher for pedestrians to cross, but I guess I don't really see the downside of this on the neighborhoods," Commissioner Boog Highberger said.
Highberger said he thought it was unlikely the turn lane would increase traffic in the neighborhoods. He also said he thought speeds may slow slightly on the road because the turn lane would require the existing lanes to be narrowed by a foot, which often slows traffic speeds.
The project, which could begin this summer, will not require widening the existing road. The center turn lane can 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.
The restriping will not eliminate parking on the south side of Sixth Street that is currently allowed. Commissioners approved the project 4-0. City Commissioner Sue Hack was absent.
Parking request for bar denied
City commissioners refused to revise an agreement with the owner of Abe & Jake's Landing that requires the downtown bar and entertainment venue to pay a $4,800 per year parking fee.
Mike Elwell, owner of Abe & Jake's Landing, had asked city commissioners to either waive or significantly reduce the annual fee that he is charged for his customers' use of the city-owned garage adjacent to his business. The business is near Sixth and New Hampshire streets in between the former Riverfront Mall and City Hall.
Elwell said when he signed the agreement in 1999 the city had not sold the use of 138 of the garage's parking spaces to the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, which occupies part of the former mall building.
After the meeting, Elwell said he was disappointed with the commission's decision to keep the fee intact.
"I don't think it is fair," Elwell said.
Commissioners said a study of the parking situation at the garage showed that there was adequate parking for both the hotel and Elwell's business.
Crossing guard OK'd near Deerfield School
School children should soon have an easier time crossing Arrowhead Drive and Peterson Road.
City commissioners approved a recommendation by the Traffic Safety Commission to add a crossing guard at the intersection.
City studies found that during peak morning and afternoon hours traffic volumes were high enough that children could not easily cross the intersection in a safe manner.
Commissioners decided to add the crossing guard as soon as a person can be hired and trained, even though the position is not in the city's budget. The cost to add the position is estimated to be $5,500. The intersection is near Deerfield School.
Decision delayed on new fire station
Commissioners delayed a decision for at least one week on whether to make changes to the design of a proposed fire station near 19th Street and Stewart Avenue.
Bids for the project came in approximately $500,000 higher than expected. City commissioners said they wanted to discuss the project with a representative of the Douglas County Commission to determine whether small changes could be made to the design to decrease the costs of the building. The county has agreed to pay for about 25 percent of the project because it will house the equipment and personnel for the joint city/county ambulance service.
The lowest bid for the project was $4.57 million.
Kasold Drive design discussion stalls
Commissioners weren't able to reach a decision on a design for Kasold Drive between Peterson Road and the Kansas Turnpike bridge.
Commissioners agreed to delay the decision for a week after debating whether the road should have four lanes or two lanes for traffic. Commissioners also must decide whether to place roundabouts along the stretch of road. The project is being proposed to handle the larger amounts of traffic that is expected as the area continues to add new homes.
Retirement community unanimously approved
Zoning and a use permitted upon review for a new retirement community won unanimous approval from commissioners.
The project by Continuum Associates would be on 17 acres north of West Sixth Street and west of Congressional Drive. The development will include 38 single family homes, eight duplexes and three 16-unit apartment complexes, plus a retirement care center that would have another 208 living units.