Archive for Sunday, April 4, 2010

31st Street repairs divide city, county

The proposed city budget will keep taxes stable, eliminate 10 unfilled city jobs and pay for a new pothole patching machine that works even in cold weather.

The proposed city budget will keep taxes stable, eliminate 10 unfilled city jobs and pay for a new pothole patching machine that works even in cold weather.

April 4, 2010


Two local governments are drawing a line in the pavement, one that could extend a dividing line into other areas of public services.

Both the city of Lawrence and Douglas County are planning to repave sections of 31st Street, generally between Ousdahl Road and Louisiana Street. But exactly who does what, when and for how much has been up for debate in recent weeks.

This much is clear:

• The city of Lawrence plans to repair 31st, from Ousdahl Road to a point at the eastern edge of Gaslight Village Mobile Home Park. That’s where the city’s border ends. Work is expected to begin Monday, closing one lane of traffic at a time.

• County crews will repair from that point east, all the way to Louisiana. That includes a stretch of about 700 feet of road outside the city limits that, until now, had been cared for by the city. The switch in responsibilities — initiated by city officials, who say they were responsible only for regular maintenance, not major repairs — will be expected to cost the county anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 for materials.

While drivers may not notice much of a difference in service — the entire stretch still will have its worst sections torn out and replaced — the switch could lead to other, larger decisions in the months and years ahead.

County officials, in years past, previously have agreed to care for the section of 31st that runs from Louisiana to Haskell Avenue, the northern half of which is in the city and southern half is not. Now, county officials plan to hold the city responsible for half the cost of repaving, repairing and otherwise maintaining that section, work expected to be necessary later this year or by the end of 2011 at the latest.

“They’re not going to stand by what they’ve done in the past,” said Craig Weinaug, county administrator. “But those are the new rules of the game, and we’ll deal with it.”

‘Where does this fit?’

Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, said he would expect to be asked for money to help repair 31st, east of Louisiana. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be available, no matter what the county says.

“We’re talking substantial dollars, and we know there are substantial needs on our other city streets,” Soules said. “It’s going to be: Where does this fit within our priorities?”

Soules acknowledges that the eastern side of 31st doesn’t appear to be high on the list. Actually, it’s not even on the list because the city hasn’t included it on the city’s compilation of pavement “grades” assigned to all other municipal streets.

Where all this back-and-forth on a single street will lead remains to be seen. But talk of shared costs and responsibilities isn’t unusual.

The city and county team up on plenty of projects and programs, including the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and, perhaps most notably, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

The county runs the joint Emergency Dispatch Center and operates Douglas County Jail — two services whose workloads deal largely with incidents within the city limits. City Hall, meanwhile, is home to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office, and dozens of city services are available to tens of thousands of county residents.

All Lawrence residents, after all, live in Douglas County.

‘A political thing’

“That’s the discussion you always have,” Soules said. “Lawrence is part of the county, and that’s the argument: Should some of the county’s road and bridge money be spent in the city of Lawrence, since the majority of that money came from the city taxpayers?

“That’s a political thing.”

Weinaug understands the dynamics, especially now. Governments don’t have “extra” money to spend on anything, a reality that can prompt officials to seek ways for maintaining their own services at the expense of others.

That’s too bad, he said.

“Doing things cooperatively is the best way to do business,” Weinaug said. “It’s more efficient. We get more accomplished. If we spend our energy having to re-examine all the (interlocal) agreements, it’s a waste of energy.”

Soules isn’t ready to scrap all coordinated work between city and county departments, but is clear about his priorities: When it comes to the city’s money, the city’s roads need to be fixed first.

After that, as the two departments and governments move further down the road, he wouldn’t be surprised to see other joint relationships be reviewed.

“It’s probably not a bad thing to revisit those things — just to make sure both jurisdictions can justify what they spend,” Soules said. “Dollars are hard to come by anymore, and we want to be sure. …

“When it comes to spending substantial amounts of money, both of us have to be accountable to the people who are paying for all these improvements.”


LogicMan 8 years, 1 month ago

The City needs to take over maintenance of all of 31st now. If need be, annex the just-neighboring land.

And extend 31st to the east now. Build it, and they will drive!

del888 8 years, 1 month ago

Solution: build a trafficway around the south part of Lawrence so that the traffic doesn't have to drive on 31st street and tear it all up.

gccs14r 8 years, 1 month ago

The County should tear out 31st between Louisiana and Haskell. If they can tear out only the eastbound lane, it still accomplishes the goal of making it unusable for traffic, saving the lives of thousand of animals every year.

Rick Aldrich 8 years, 1 month ago

who cares, just fix the jacked up streets.

John Moore 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree with everyone else on this matter. Tear down 31st street and build a bypass from k-10 to Iowa street. This would cut down on the rush hour traffic that travels thru that area both morning and evening commute.

gccs14r 8 years, 1 month ago

If the goal is to get people from one side of town to the other more quickly (it really doesn't take very long, but whatever), then the only thing that makes sense is a flyover along the 23rd St alignment from Harper to Kasold, with ramps at Mass and Iowa. That would reduce traffic on 23rd down below. A bypass will be of no use to people who live in Lawrence.

sad_lawrencian 8 years, 1 month ago

Not difficult, people. You get some men, some asphalt, and a truck/roller and go to it.

After 31st they should tackle 23rd. Then Iowa.

50YearResident 8 years, 1 month ago

The City and the County will really be at each others throat about who is going to pay what expenses on the joint Framland Folly.

gccs14r: What are the invisible "Thousands of animals" that will be saved by closing 31st Street?

gccs14r 8 years, 1 month ago

Ever go down there after a thunderstorm? It's carnage on a grand scale.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Some rush hour traffic could be using 1000 rd off south Iowa/59 to 1057/E1900 rd then quickly to K-10.

In the meantime a long term solution:

In 1971 the State Highway Commission recommended a bypass for Lawrence to be built south of the Wakarusa river. The bypass is far more practical for future highway demands. Douglas County does needs a bypass not a trafficway.

As a matter of practicality KDOT could consider two different proposals?

Number One: Scrap all other plans.

The 32nd street plan will continue to be opposed that is a given. The 42nd street plan will come with stiff opposition from the original proponents of the 32nd street plan. This is a given as Bob Johnson has stated publicly.

KDOT could then proceed to add two more lanes to the existing western leg thus safer travel for all users. Four lanes would likely draw more new traffic to I-70 which would be good.

Proceeding forward with the western leg could accomplish several things: • A George Williams Way(15th Street) interchange • Removing the traffic light thus a design that makes this intersection safe for YSI athletic fields patrons • Ultimately much safer travel between Iowa and I-70

Number two:

Spend tax dollars on a more practical application for this point in time. Introduce appropriate plans designed to meet the future needs of four counties. Bring Johnson,Douglas,Jefferson and Leavenworth county leaders together and suggest all assist in funding bridges across the Kansas River.

Residents and business of all four counties would benefit from the project. Also making additional use of I-70 again is fiscally responsible.

This route could join County Road 1057/1900rd @ Kansas Highway 10 existing interchange.

This concept accomplishes many things.

It services: • Johnson ,Douglas, Jefferson, Leavenworth and Shawnee County drivers going to and from southern JOCO. • the Eudora Business Park east of 1057. • East Hills Business Park and the southeast Lawrence industrial park. • the Lawrence airport. And it: • diverts traffic around the city of Lawrence. • reduces congestion for morning and afternoon commuters. • might save Douglas County taxpayers millions of dollars on the long term • is prudent use of tax dollars. • eliminates the need for an eastern bypass. • eliminates much large truck traffic on 23rd Street but not Jayhawk student traffic.

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