City engineers hope to strike while the iron is still hot when it comes to traffic safety improvements near the East Hills Business Park.
City commissioners on Tuesday will receive a recommendation from the Public Works Department to apply for a $2.5 million state grant that would create a new entrance at the East Hills Business Park, the site of several serious accidents recently. The grant application comes one month after Kansas Department of Transportation officials heard an earful at a meeting that included city and county leaders, and concerned workers at the park.
"My whole point is that we need to keep this issue in front of the state," said Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works. "We need to make sure that the state knows this is still an issue."
The grant application proposes moving the main entrance farther west from its main location, which sits atop a hill on Kansas Highway 10 between Noria Road and Franklin Road. The new entrance would be at Franklin Road. The change of entrances would require Franklin Road to be extended a short distance north of Kansas Highway 10, and a new road to be built that would run parallel to Kansas Highway 10 to connect Franklin Road to the business park's interior road system.
The intersection at Franklin Road and Kansas Highway 10 - which already is the main entrance to the Douglas County Jail - also likely would need a traffic signal to significantly improve traffic safety, Soules said. Soules said city engineers consider the improvements among the more necessary in the city.
"The safety issue out there is a major concern," Soules said. "We have a lot of vehicles turning left and a lot of them, especially large trucks, are moving pretty slow. They're trying to go across traffic that is often times going 70 miles per hour. That's not a good situation."
A group of city, county, state and business park representatives are meeting regularly to discuss possible traffic safety improvements that could be made. Soules said the group hadn't yet endorsed the Franklin Road idea. But Soules said he wanted to submit the idea to the state now, because if the city waits until the group is finished with its work in the fall, it will be too late to apply for the state grant. Soules said if the group didn't endorse the Franklin Road idea, he hoped the money could be used for whatever plan the group does endorse.
Business park leaders said they were glad the city was keeping the issue on the front burner.
"The situation certainly causes a significant risk, especially with the truck traffic we have out here," said Bruce Boyer, a vice president with Prosoco Inc., which is located in the East Hills Business Park. "It has gotten to the point that we caution every vendor we have about being careful when they cross the highway."
But Boyer said he didn't think the Franklin Road option would solve all the problems.
"I think the ultimate solution is to complete the South Lawrence Trafficway and let a lot of this traffic bypass us," Boyer said.
Commissioners at their Tuesday meeting also will be asked to submit state grant applications for several other projects. Commissioners will be asked to choose between submitting an application for a center turn lane on Sixth Street between Folks Road and Monterey Way, or adding left turn lanes on Michigan Street where it intersects with Sixth Street.
Soules said the center turn lane should reduce rear-end accidents, while the Michigan Street improvements would improve traffic flow.
The city will compete with other cities across the state for the DOT grant money. All the grants also require a local funding match from the city, usually from 20 to 25 percent of the project's total costs.