When Kansas University student leaders approached the city last summer they had a simple complaint about the area between campus and downtown.
“The problem was there was no one route that was well-lighted and well-paved,” said Elise Higgins, community affairs director for KU Student Senate.
Now a plan has emerged that would build two lighted and paved paths between KU and downtown, if the city can win some federal grant money.
City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will be asked to allow staff members to move ahead on a $530,000 plan that would make sidewalk and lighting improvements along both 12th and 14th streets.
Staff members earlier this year had proposed about a $350,000 project that would have made improvements only along 12th Street. But Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant public works director, said further discussions with students revealed a strong interest in a 14th Street option as well.
“One student group did a survey asking what routes students would take,” Thiel said. “These two routes were selected, in large part, based on what we thought would be the most trafficked areas.”
The two routes staff members are now proposing:
• Along the north side of 12th Street from Oread Avenue to Vermont Street, then proceeding diagonally through South Park along an existing sidewalk to North Park Street.
• Along the north side of 14th Street from Louisiana Street to Ohio Street, then turning north along the west side of Ohio Street to 12th Street.
Both routes would use new lighting technology for the city. Thiel is proposing that 4-foot high, motion-activated pedestal lights be installed about every 20 feet along the paths. The lights would be on only when pedestrians were on the paths.
“We would get some energy savings,” Thiel said. “And if you are on the pathway and see the lights on up ahead, you would know someone else is there. We think there’s an added safety benefit to them.”
Also new to the proposed project are two pedestrian-activated crossing signals. Thiel is proposing one crossing at the intersection of Tennessee and 12th streets and one at Kentucky and 12th streets.
Both paths are expected to be built on existing city rights-of-way.
But the two-route approach has increased estimated costs by about $200,000, and now the city will have to rely heavily on a federal grant to fully complete the project.
Staff members are seeking permission to apply for about $175,000 from a federal transportation enhancement grant. Thiel said if the city doesn’t receive that grant money, the city would focus on building only the 12th Street option.
The city also is seeking about $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant money. The city is expected to receive about $800,000 in CDBG money to distribute projects and organizations that meet the federal guidelines. Originally, the path project was expected to seek about $150,000 in CDBG money.
Other expected funding sources for the project include $150,000 from KU and $50,000 from the city’s general fund.
Higgins — who brought concerns up after seeing an increase in the number of assaults in the area — said she’s optimistic the city will be able to build at least one of the two paths in the near future. She said student groups will promote the paths as the official route to downtown in hopes that high usage would create a “safety in numbers” scenario.
If funding comes through, work on the project likely would begin in August and take about 120 days to complete, Thiel said.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.