Pedestrians won out over a tight city budget Tuesday night.
City commissioners at their weekly meeting approved a request for a new $35,000 pedestrian-activated crosswalk for the portion of New Hampshire Street between the Lawrence Arts Center and the city-owned parking garage.
"I think we've all had the experience of essentially playing dodge the car as you go across that section of the street," said City Commissioner Sue Hack.
Commissioners unanimously approved the request - after hearing several stories of pedestrian-vehicle conflicts - despite not having a clear funding source for the project.
But commissioners said the area presented enough of a safety concern that they asked staff members to come up with a recommendation on how to pay for the new traffic light.
Staff members and patrons of the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., urged commissioners to make the project a priority.
"I can tell you the center's board is concerned, the employees of the center are concerned and parents are concerned," said June Jones, the interim executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center.
Supporters of the Arts Center collected 150 signatures on a petition calling for the new stoplight. Several members of the public also told commissioners about near misses with vehicles, and reminded the commission of a 2003 accident when a pedestrian was struck and injured at the crosswalk.
City Manager David Corliss said he would look at money in the city's capital reserve fund as a possible source of money for the project. That funding may not materialize until 2009. Corliss, though, said he thought it may take more than a new light to fully address the problem.
"One of the concerns I have is that we're going to need to work with the police department to enforce this," Corliss said. "The drivers who aren't paying attention to this might be as likely to run a light as they are to run a yield sign today."
In other traffic safety news, commissioners:
¢ denied a request for a new midblock crosswalk in the 700 block of New Hampshire Street. Commissioners said they hadn't seen the necessary data to justify spending the approximately $15,000 for crosswalk. The crosswalk also was likely to eliminate nine on-street parking spaces along New Hampshire Street.
¢ agreed to lower the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph on Crescent Road between Engel Road and Naismith Drive. Commissioners said the reduction in speed was justified because of the large amount of pedestrian traffic generated by the nearby Kansas University dormitories.