Its nickname is the "suicide lane."
That's long been the moniker for the center turning lane along the busiest sections of Lawrence's 23rd Street. There motorists frequently risk head-on collisions as they try to turn left the same time others are doing likewise, or fear being side-swiped by an impatient driver looking to turn out of one of the many driveways along one of the city's busiest shopping corridors.
Chuck Soules, the city's director of Public Works, has a plan he hopes will soften the suicide lane's image a bit. Soules and staff have been working with property owners up and down the street on a voluntary program that encourages businesses to begin sharing driveways, thereby lessening the number of access points.
"We're definitely looking for ways to improve the safety of the corridor," Soules said. "We think this might be a way to reduce the number of conflict points if we can reduce the number of places people pull in and pull out."
The city has received a $500,000 economic development grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation - and city commissioners already have approved spending $220,000 in local money - to improve the street's safety. With that type of money, Soules said, the city could reduce the number of access points between Iowa and Louisiana streets by 10.
The hope is that the project would provide enough benefits to both businesses and motorists that the city would want to fund a second round of improvements.
Here's a look at the changes the city's Public Works Department would like to make to the stretch of 23rd Street between Iowa and Louisiana streets: ¢ Close nine driveways on the north side of 23rd Street and three driveways on the south side of the street. ¢ Build two new driveways. ¢ Enlarge and improve eight existing driveways that would allow neighboring businesses to share driveways. ¢ The program would create a net decrease of 10 driveways along the busy stretch of road.
The city is trying to make the project as appealing as possible to businesses along the corridor. Soules said no business will be forced to participate, and those that do will not have to pay for any of the costs to build a new driveway. In addition, Soules said, the city will install sidewalks for participating businesses that don't already have them or have ones that don't meet city code.
"There are some real advantages to letting the city do all this work for you," Soules said.
Engineers with the Public Works Department have been meeting with property owners this week. Soules said he's cautiously optimistic several businesses will want to join in.
Peter Doddema, manager of the University Book Shop at 1116 W. 23rd Street, said he's interested in possibly sharing an entrance with the adjacent O'Reilly Auto Parts.
"As long as the driveway is wide enough it probably could work," Doddema said.
Other areas the city is looking to make changes in include the areas near: Hastings Books Music & Video; the stretch of street that includes Subway, the Presto Convenience Store, the Sushi Station and Kwik Shop; Dillons; Taco Bell, the Pizza Hut and the adjacent Louisiana Purchase shopping center; and the stretch of street leading to Burger King and the shopping center that includes Party America.
Deals, however, haven't yet been reached, so the work can't begin. Some businesses are expressing concerns, even though their landlords have expressed interest.
"I think all of this will make it harder to get here and harder to leave,' said Lance Keltner, an owner of UNI Computers, which would begin sharing a driveway with the adjacent Burger King and Long John Silvers restaurants. "I think that will just cause people to get impatient and ultimately result in more wrecks."
Soules said he hopes to reach agreements with enough businesses so that co
More about the project
- 6News video: City plans make 23rd street safer
- Chat about road construction and the condition of city streets with Chuck Soules (08-23-06)
- Chat with Lawrence City Commissioner Boog Highberger (04-20-06)
- Chat with David Corliss, Lawrence's interim city manager (04-07-06)
- KDOT eager to complete trafficway (03-30-06)