A center turn lane and $5.5 million for a busy portion of Iowa Street will be on the wish list of city engineers Tuesday.
At their weekly meeting, city commissioners will be told that there is no good alternative to completely rebuilding the stretch of Iowa Street from Yale Road to Bob Billings Parkway.
“The pavement has basically served its useful life,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, who said the road’s bottom base of pavement dates back to 1952.
Engineers also believe road safety standards dictate that a center turn lane be added to the stretch of street, in part, because 76 accidents have occurred on the road in the last three years.
City commissioners will decide the center turn lane issue. It has been controversial with neighbors in past years over fears that a center turn lane will increase the amount of traffic that cuts through neighborhoods to get to Kansas University.
But Soules said information from a recent public meeting with neighbors indicate that position may be softening. Of 21 surveys completed at the meeting, 14 supported the turn lane. Out of 19 e-mails received after the meeting, 16 supported the new lane.
With or without a turn lane, the project will be a major unexpected expense for the city. Early estimates are the road will cost $5.5 million to build with a center turn lane or $4.5 million without.
When City Hall leaders were creating a list of major road projects to fund with the community’s new infrastructure sales tax, Iowa Street did not make the list. But this winter, Iowa Street’s pavement began to crumble to the point that city engineers said something had to be done.
Recently, the city did an emergency repaving of the road, but that fix is not expected to last long because of the underlying base problems.
“It needs to be rebuilt because it just wouldn’t be prudent to spend the maintenance dollars on it year after year,” Soules said.
Because the road is one of the busier in the county — Iowa Street also is U.S. Highway 59 — city commissioners plan to ask the Douglas County Commission for a financial contribution to the project. Commissioners haven’t yet set an amount they will seek.
The rest of the funding will come from a mix of new debt, sales tax money and federal dollars.
Current plans call for $1 million to be used from the city’s new infrastructure sales tax. Soules believes that lower construction project costs on previous projects will allow the city to use the $1 million in sales tax money without having to cancel other projects planned for the sales tax dollars.
Under the current proposal the city would issue about $1.25 million in new debt, with the rest of the project costs coming from federal highway dollars that the city historically has received.
If approved at Tuesday night’s city commission meeting, design work would begin immediately. But construction work likely would not begin until early 2012. Work would run through the end of 2012.
One lane traffic in each direction would be allowed during the construction project.
“There is no way you can shut down Iowa Street,” Soules said.