On the street
I think if our fiscal health allows it, we should seriously consider it. I think maintaining the historic character of the city adds to the quality of life.
Let the uncovering begin.
City commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward on a project to peel back the asphalt of an Old West Lawrence street to uncover the century-old bricks beneath it.
Commissioners agreed to accept a state grant that will pay for 80 percent of the costs to rehabilitate the portion of Ohio Street from Sixth Street to Eighth Street.
"Brick streets are an amazing part of our history," Mayor Sue Hack said. "I hate to see them covered up with asphalt."
The city is responsible for paying for the remaining 20 percent of the project. That is estimated to be about $200,000 for the Ohio Street project.
Commissioners, though, said it would be money well spent. They said the street - built in 1903 - eventually will have to be replaced. If it is replaced with just standard asphalt or concrete, the city would spend $600,000 because the project would not be eligible for any state funding. The fact that the street is being rebuilt with brick is what qualifies it for the state transportation grant.
The project will be an extensive one, city engineers told commissioners. First, the thin layer of asphalt will be stripped from the bricks. Then all the bricks will be removed, cleaned and evaluated for potential reuse. Engineers estimate 50 percent of the bricks will be reused. The city will purchase the remaining bricks - about 170,000 - from other communities that have a surplus of old bricks. The project also includes restoring the old stone curbs along the street.
In total, the project is expected to take about six months. It will require an entire block to be closed to traffic and parking for each phase of the project. Residents likely will have to access their homes through alleys.
Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works, said his department would put on a meeting with the neighborhood in late September or early October.
Soules said city commissioners will have future decisions to make on how to deal with other brick streets in town. He estimated the city had about 30 miles of brick streets, with most of them covered in asphalt. He said the city likely won't get state grants to rehabilitate all of them because the grant process is highly competitive.
"If you get one grant every 10 years, I think we probably would be doing pretty well," Soules said.
But Soules said there are some advantages to exposing the brick streets. The city last rebuilt a brick street - the 700 block of Mississippi Street - about seven years ago. Soules said that when the streets are rebuilt correctly that they're very low maintenance, and also naturally slow traffic because of their slightly bumpy surface.
Soules said he would like to work with neighborhoods and historic preservationists to determine which bricks streets make the most sense to save. He said some of the brick streets that aren't feasible to save possibly could be replaced with stamped concrete that is designed to look like bricks.
Several neighborhood residents said Tuesday they liked the idea of brick streets, as long as the city felt like it had the money to do the project.
"I think a brick street would be real nice to slow down the traffic and to make the area look more historic," said Carmen Clapsaddle, who lives along Ohio Street. "But I also know the city doesn't have a lot of money right now."
An exact timeline for the project to begin isn't known. Construction bids are expected to be taken in January. Commissioners approved the project on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Boog Highberger was absent from the meeting because he was representing the city in Eutin, Germany, one of Lawrence's sister cities.