A stretch of Iowa Street notorious for collisions may get a center turn lane if city engineers can convince neighbors and state leaders that the project is worthwhile.
City traffic planners are trying to build support for an idea to build a center turn lane on Iowa Street from Harvard Road to University Drive, a stretch of road that has produced 48 accidents in the last two years.
"We think this certainly would be a legitimate use of highway safety funding from the state," said City Traffic Engineer David Woosley. "But a lot of it probably will depend on how much support there is from the neighborhood."
Robert Lewis, who lives along West Hills Parkway, said conversations he's had indicate the neighborhood is largely supportive of the idea.
"Something needs to be done, because it is dangerous out there when the traffic gets heavy," Lewis said.
Support for the idea isn't universal.
Bill Mitchell, who has lived in the University Heights Neighborhood area for 42 years, said he thought the additional turn lane would encourage more people to turn into the neighborhood as a shortcut to Kansas University.
"What needs to happen is we need to get to the root of the problem," Mitchell said. "The root of the problem is KU as a traffic destination, and KU as an institution not taking responsibility for it."
Mitchell said a better solution is for KU to widen 15th Street west of Iowa Street as it enters the western edge of the main campus. He said a four-lane 15th Street would make it more likely that people would use that route instead of cutting through the University Heights Neighborhood.
The city doesn't yet have cost estimates on how much the Iowa Street turn lane project may cost. The city, though, will seek to use a $700,000 grant it received earlier this year from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The city will need KDOT permission to use that grant money because it had been earmarked for one of three projects: a roundabout at 19th and Louisiana streets; a roundabout near the meeting point of McDonald Drive, Iowa Street and Sixth Street; or the addition of left-turn lanes at Ninth Street and Avalon Road.
All three of those projects were deemed by city engineers to be difficult to complete, and likely controversial with residents. Woosley said the state had agreed to consider the Iowa Street project, but wants to determine whether the idea has neighborhood support.
One issue that will be important to some neighbors is undecided. Woosley said the city doesn't yet know whether it will have to acquire additional right of way from property owners who have frontage along Iowa Street, although he said the city hopes little will be needed.
The project also will need City Commission support. The plan likely will be before the commission in the next two weeks. Commissioners previously expressed interest in the concept.