Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Brick street to be replaced

September 12, 2007


City commission authorized brick unearthing

Two blocks, $1 million and 340,000 bricks. That's what will go into a project next year on ths 600 and 700 blocks of Ohio Street. Enlarge video

The old brick surface of Ohio Street shows through a section of asphalt in the 700 block. The City Commission voted unanimously, 4-0, to accept a state grant to rehabilitate Ohio Street from Sixth Street to Eighth Street.

The old brick surface of Ohio Street shows through a section of asphalt in the 700 block. The City Commission voted unanimously, 4-0, to accept a state grant to rehabilitate Ohio Street from Sixth Street to Eighth Street.

On the street

Do you think the city should spend money on refurbishing brick roads?

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.

More responses

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.


stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 8 months ago

This is an absolute waste of one million dollars of our tax money...

Joe Hyde 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm disappointed. $200,000 could have been spent instead on removing a roundabout. One roundabout -- doesn't matter which one -- just rehabilitate at least one of our intersections to its historically safer design.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 8 months ago

Very cool! When will the historic brick streets in East Lawrence be repaired as well?

Also, I'll take a roundabout over a stop sign any day of the week. Anyone who's too stupid to figure out a roundabout should not be driving in the first place.

lawrencian 10 years, 8 months ago

Personally, I think saving a historic road in town is a much better investment than any of the roundabouts the city has put in. And the money is designated for this purpose, so isn't it better if it is on our road than someone else's?

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 8 months ago

Wha? I have bricks under the asphalt on my street too. Asphalt removal brings up property values for those homes and makes traffic go slow. Please remove the asphalt on my block too, Commissioners!

cms 10 years, 8 months ago

A special assessment should be charged to the home owners on that street.

RKLOG 10 years, 8 months ago

Expose and save some of our trolley tracks too.

hawkbygod 10 years, 8 months ago

"A special assessment should be charged to the home owners on that street"

Why, this project is costing the city $200,000 as opposed to $600,000 +. Any benefit these homeowners are seeing from the brick street will be realized in a higher appraisal and property tax.

monkeyhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

I owned a property on the west side. The intersecting street was repaired and a special assessment was attached to my tax bill for 10 years. This was not the street my house was located on, but a structural repair to a main through street to a large commercial venture. No property owners on the repaired street were required to pay a special.

So, now the city feels that it is appropriate to "pretty up" streets that serve and enhance very few. Look for many more taxpayer funded projects that benefit the few.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

Wow. The average home value in the 600 and 700 blocks is over $250K, some as high as $450K. Some very prominent and influential people live on that little stretch of brick road.

Fatty_McButterpants 10 years, 8 months ago

Some of you just have to complain about everything, You're likie crotchety old men. I think the street will be fantastic. Lawrencians are always saying that they want to "preserve the charm" of our downtown. Well, this will help do that. Old West Lawrence is a part of that charm and should be preserved as such. Frankly, I think they ought to put the brick streets in down Mass St. from 11th to 6th.

TNPlates 10 years, 8 months ago

It wasn't designated as "blighted" recently. Maybe 20 years ago.

RKLOG 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm glad this is happening. I vote yes for bricks.

WilburM 10 years, 8 months ago

  1. How many tourists/visitors walk through E Lawrence or far West Lawrence very day (and especially weekends)? Lots walk through OWL, and spend $$$ downtown, to say nothing of the buses that drive through on a regular basis.
  2. Although OWL has in the past expressed a preference for brick streets, there was no lobbying on this decision.
  3. Property values WILL continue to rise and taxes accordingly.
  4. Without question, all areas of the city should receive equitable treatment -- which may well mean different policies that address different needs.

Mackadoo 10 years, 8 months ago

Another YES for bricks vote here. This is a great solution. Since we would have had to repave anyway, we're saving $400,000 of local tax money.

The taxes I pay to the state are going to go to a grant like this one way or another (like it or not), so those dollars might as well come back here to my town instead of going to a part of the state I don't get to see.

I'm a little surprised -- I thought this would have somehow appeased those people that hate on KU employees for not paying city taxes as a great way to get some tax money from them for something local. How naive of me.

davidnta 10 years, 8 months ago

I would vote yes for the bricks because it saves the city a lot of money and it brings the back the uniqueness of Lawrence that made the city great in the first place.

Tony Kisner 10 years, 8 months ago

Those streets are great on a bike with the kid in a bike seat. A cheap version thrill ride.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 8 months ago

Brick streets are prettier and last one helluva of a lot longer than asphalt = millions in savings over 50-70 years = good job commissioners.

Asphalt is ugly and sucks up light from headlights rather than reflect.

Slowing traffic without additional traffic calming devices = saved dollars.

Roundabouts are definitely better than stop signs or traffic lights at some intersections. Whenever possible it is best to keep traffic moving.

justthefacts 10 years, 8 months ago

The amount paid by the city is estimated to be about $200,000 for the Ohio Street project.

That is $200,000 that could have been spent on other things.

There will always be arguments over what is and is not a good use of government funds. Personally, I support historic preservation efforts and enjoy living in a place where that type of effort is supported. However...even those of us who appreciate beauty, art, civility, etc. are ready to see cut backs in order to reduce tax burdens. How is spending this $200,000 going to help cut back future expenses born by all tax payers? If it's not, then there are much better uses that could be made of this $200,000.

For example, the police department had $120,000 cut from its requested budgeted, money that would have gone to outfitting all cars with video equipment. How would that cut down on future expenses you ask? By encouraging those who were filmed to enter plea agreements more often thus negating the expensive process of trying every case and avoiding frivilous suits/claims or establishing clear liability when the police officers are accused of wrong doing. It's often amazing how an actual video of an incident will help focus memories as to what REALLY happened.

In the future, I wish all spending decisions were made in light of how much money the city will save (or make back), not upon what is a "good idea" or "nice." Perhaps we should require that all future city commissioners have a degree in business or economics? It's time to stop operating the city (and all government) on credit (based upon future taxation projections)! The money trees (tax payers) are dying out.

ralphralph 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm fond of the old brick streets, in a sentimental kind of way, but I don't know about this one. A Million Bucks and 6 months for 2 blocks of residential street? Sheesh!
That's lot of money in a town that claims to be too broke to fund public safety.

Redzilla 10 years, 8 months ago

I'd rather have a whole street stripped back to original brick than the piece-meal stripping that occurs on a regular basis on my street. You may know the phenomenon better as "gaping potholes where the asphalt has broken away to reveal the old brick street." Better to drive on bricks streets than on war zone looking potholed asphalt. And it sounds like we got a bargain with the state grant. What's to cry about?

matahari 10 years, 8 months ago

I'd like to know the names of the people that live in that two block area, and know who they know~

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure why people are just referring to the $200,000... unless they're not concerned about where their State tax dollars go...

This project is going to cost us one million dollars...

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 8 months ago

tony88 The cost is not $200,000... unless you don't pay State taxes... The cost is one million dollars...

Richard Heckler 10 years, 8 months ago

Maybe the city is not broke. Perhaps it is a way to manipulate an increase in sales tax which I believe will fail.

law7755 10 years, 8 months ago

This article did not make it very clear that the grant can only be used for historic streets. It could not go to just any street that needs repair.

fletch 10 years, 8 months ago

"That is $200,000 that could have been spent on other things."

Yeah, it could have gone towards the $600,000 bill for repairing the street later on. Hmmm, $200k now and less overall upkeep costs for 50+ years, or $600k later with constant upkeep costs. That's a real hard one.

LogicMan 10 years, 8 months ago

"Hey, how about restoring some of the old trolly car tracks too?"

Get rid of the T, and bring back trolleys to downtown and nearby neighborhoods -- that would be a fair trade, and create a unique attraction for the city.

mom_of_three 10 years, 8 months ago

My hometown has many brick sidestreets left, and there are not too maintenance problems with brick. Wish I could have brick on my street...

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

Solomon makes a good point. If brick is superior to concrete and asphalt, why aren't all new streets made of brick?

moveforward 10 years, 8 months ago

"Solomon makes a good point. If brick is superior to concrete and asphalt, why aren't all new streets made of brick?"

Because the same brick street really cost $1,000,000 using half old and half new. All new would cost more. Politicians generally make short term (read cheap) purchase decisions, not long term (often better value). Lawrence is only paing 20% of the cost - if they can re-use half of the existing brick. Again, read the WHOLE article.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

Granted, I know nothing about street construction. Seems to me it would cost as much to dig up and clean off the old brick to re-use it as it would to buy new bricks. Labor is expensive. New bricks shouldn't be that hard to come by; Kansas is a sea of clay. I checked out bricks vs concrete for the walk to my house; bricks were less expensive.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

plus, how easy is it going to be to find new brick that matches the old? Take framing wood for instance. A 2x4 40 years ago was 2x4. A 2x4 made today is smaller than that. Just wondering.

Also, I wonder why all those other Kansas towns have such a surplus of used bricks. Why don't they use them if they are such a good surface material?

Scott Tichenor 10 years, 8 months ago

Nice to know that even though the city's bank account is essentially empty, they can find enough to cough up $200K for Ohio Street between 6th and 8th. God knows we wouldn't want the value of THOSE properties to be devalued because of something like asphalt streets. There are infrastructure needs all over this town that are greater than this. What a pure crock of $hit.

KsTwister 10 years, 8 months ago

"the grant will pay for only 80 percent of the approximately $980,000 project. The city would have to pick up about $195,000 in costs ."sept 11 article to repair brick street

Well you have to admit its better than coughing up $600k and having spent our street money on roundabouts already the roads need repairs badly. Some have so much filler in all the cracks they look terrible and drive just as bad. Better brick than nothing at all???

mommy3 10 years, 8 months ago

They should ask Oskaloosa about the upkeep.....the entire town square and plus some is brick. I think it is beautiful. It brings back that old town flare!!

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