Archive for Monday, August 16, 2010

Brick by Brick: New York Street project uncovers and restores a piece of Lawrence history

Three blocks of New York Street are getting a makeover to return the neighborhood roads to their historic appearance. More than 400,000 bricks will be used.

August 16, 2010


Block by block, between 1960 and 1976, the historic bricks of New York Street, in one of Lawrence’s oldest neighborhoods, were paved over with asphalt.

“It was the convenient thing to do back then,” said David Cronin of the Public Works Department, noting that the ’60s and ’70s weren’t generally a good time for maintaining ties to the past.

“Now, people see the value in historic preservation,” said Cronin, the engineer on a project to restore the brick surface of the east Lawrence street.

Here’s a snapshot of the months-long project as it moves into its final phase.

How many blocks are being rebuilt?

Three: 900, 1000 and 1100 blocks of New York Street. This includes four intersections: Ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th.

Three blocks of brick are being rebuilt on New York Street. The months-long project will use about 430,000 bricks.

Three blocks of brick are being rebuilt on New York Street. The months-long project will use about 430,000 bricks.

How many bricks are being used?

About 430,000.

Each brick is generally 8 inches long, 3.5 inches wide and 2.5 inches thick, though irregularities are common and complicate the rebuilding process. The bricks are not laid flat on the street, but on their sides.

Where do the bricks come from?

They are salvaged from the original street. The bricks are 100 years old, having first been laid in 1909-1910. The original street had two layers of bricks. The new street will have only one layer.

What’s the process?

The original street was entirely removed, down to a dirt bed. The bricks were separated from the asphalt that had been laid over them. Then crews rebuilt the street from the ground up, starting with 9 inches of fly-ash-treated subgrade, 7 inches of asphalt base, 1 inch of sand and one course of salvaged brick (3.5 inches).

Why do the intersections look different?

The bricks in the intersection are laid in a herringbone pattern, while the street is a running bond pattern. The herringbone pattern, with bricks on the diagonal, can better accommodate the force exerted by turning cars.

When is the project expected to be finished?

Late October or early November. Two-thirds of the project is complete now.

How much did the project cost?

$576,842 was the contract price. All the money came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal stimulus program. A new stone curb — instead of concrete — will be installed in the 1100 block that will add another $18,000 to the price. The stone was requested by the neighborhood to replace the crumbling historic stone already there.

How many jobs were created or maintained?

The project has provided work to about 50 people.

How many brick streets are in Lawrence?

The city has 24 miles of brick streets, but only about 3.5 miles of exposed brick. The rest are paved over.

What are the advantages to brick as a material?

Brick is a natural traffic-calming device. One of the reasons this street was chosen is because it is in front of New York School. Brick streets don’t get potholes like paved streets; generally there is less maintenance. They are also a good fit aesthetically for historic neighborhoods.

Were any interesting discoveries made while excavating the old street layers?

All the bricks are different shapes and sizes. Most of the brick on this project has the “Lawrence, Kansas” stamp. The Ohio Street project (of 2008) did not have that many stamped. Some streets were originally built with the bricks mortared together; some just have sand between them. The original streets were built with a parabolic crown, meaning the closer you get to the curb the more the elevation drops. Maybe this was to facilitate/hold drainage from when horses were used for transportation.

Source: David P. Cronin, project engineer, Public Works Department


MacHeath 7 years, 8 months ago

If you notice the bricks at the intersection are new and smooth. The old bricks are worn and have damaged edges. I like smooth streets...sorry. My Dad would have cackled at the money spent for this. He would have looked at the asphalt as an improvement, as did everyone else in those days. I really think this is a waste of money. It looks cool, but I think it will cost more in maintenance as well. Hey, lets dig up all the trolly car tracks too! That should be "traffic calming".

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 8 months ago

The brick streets aren't a smooth as a recently laid asphalt street. However, I'll take a brick street in good condition over the many washboard asphalt streets in E. Lawrence. And these freshly laid brick streets will remain in good condition much longer than any asphalt street will.

Blessed4x 7 years, 8 months ago

"Then crews rebuilt the street from the ground up, starting with 9 inches of fly-ash-treated subgrade, 7 inches of asphalt base, 1 inch of sand and one course of salvaged brick (3.5 inches)"

Normally I am against silly reconstructs like this, however, the bricks will last a lifetime so it may be money well spent (as far as the bricks are concerned). My concern comes from the installation of an asphalt base course. When we design brick repaves, we use 8-10 inches of a concrete base. It gives a much more stable base for the bricks. With the use of asphalt, these roads will be a washboard in a few years. "Shoving" of the pavement will still take place, especially at the intersections. The asphalt is much cheaper, but if all the expense was undertaken to salvage and relay all these bricks, it would make sense to do it right.

...and for the record, while these bricks will last much longer than conventional flexible or rigid pavements, I can't stand to drive on the stupid things and am very glad this is not in front of my house.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 8 months ago

Are you aware of any studies that compare asphalt vs. concrete base?

I'd be inclined to believe that an asphalt base would not last as long as concrete would, but I have no idea now much difference there would be.

It would seem that because the asphalt base isn't subjected to direct sunlight or to the severity of freeze/thaw as surface asphalt, and because the brick and sand layers disperse the load, it would behave differently from a top wear layer of asphalt.

And even if there are some areas where washboarding occurs, can't just those areas be redone without having to redo the whole street?

Matt Schwartz 7 years, 8 months ago

how much money from the fifty people that worked on that job is going to mexico?

Kontum1972 7 years, 8 months ago

need Pink Floyd music for this one.."another brick in the Wall"....guitar solo Dave Gilmour..plz...ripp it off ...Dude...

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 8 months ago

Wait, we're going back to brick streets? Talk about bass-ackwards!

Gotta love the people that run this town!

Irenaku 7 years, 8 months ago

I live on the 800 block of New York and am curious as to why they are not paving it, and for that matter, the 700 block, as well? Also, in theory bricks should be a "natural traffic calming device", but people still fly down my street going what appears to be 40 mph, no concern for kids or animals or other cars. Still, the bricks are nice and quaint...

inglec 7 years, 8 months ago

I see no mention how they plan on snow removal come this winter. Would it not be more difficult for the snow plows as to not dislodge any of the bricks when removing snow. And how does sand/salt mixture effect bricks?

Ricky_Vaughn 7 years, 8 months ago

That's probably all part of some going-green, budget cut in which they will allow the snow to be removed "naturally" by the sun.

Danimal 7 years, 8 months ago

I wonder what the impacts of taking out the extra course of bricks is going to have? Lawrence doesn't exactly do an excellent job of road maintenance to begin with, so what's going to happen with a weaker brick street when it goes without any maintenance for a few decades? I'm guessing nothing good.

taylormade 7 years, 8 months ago

once you get over any inconvenience this may have on you personally, you may see the beauty and class it will return to these otherwise mundane streets.

Clint Church 7 years, 8 months ago

Get the prisoners out of jail and let them work on the streets. It would save alot of money and give them something to do.

Meatwad 7 years, 8 months ago

I really think that $500,000 could have been much better spent than for something that is mostly just for beautification. 50 jobs for a only few months is not stimulating the economy a whole lot. I don't think it was the city's choice though as to how it was spent, the federal government said "here is your money that you have to spend on beautification". Otherwise, they could have (and probably would have) used it for things like schools, roads, etc... not for beautifcation of 3 blocks of one little street in East Lawrence. New York School could use the money more than the street. Makes a liberal like me start to lean conservative (fiscally anyway). I also wonder the only reason these particular blocks were chosen was because of New York School, or if there was another reason. Just curious about that.

Meatwad 7 years, 8 months ago

I think not only was an example of how our money should have been spent in a smarter way, but this kind of thing fuels the right wingers. If some of the Fox News wing nuts got ahold of this story, they would parade it as a prime example of wasteful government spending of our tax dollars. A lot of ARRA stimulus spending did a world of good, but this brick street silliness is what the right wing conservatives will be talking about.

SunflowerStateOfMind 7 years, 8 months ago

The streets will cut down maintenance and add property value. I hate riding on them because of their "traffic calming" nature but this seems like a good location. The neighborhoods that already have them are doing fine and historic districts across the country are going the same route.

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