A busy section of Iowa Street leading to Kansas University will get a host of new turn lanes as part of a $6 million rebuilding project, city commissioners decided Tuesday.
Now, city engineers can get busy trying to figure out how to rebuild Iowa Street between the Irving Hill overpass and Harvard Road without grinding traffic to a halt on the city’s main north-south passageway.
“Dealing with traffic is going to be a huge consideration on this project,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works. “That intersection of 15th and Iowa has to remain open.”
Don’t worry, city engineers will have some time. The project is not expected to begin construction until after the May 2012 KU graduation ceremonies. Once started, it likely will take at least nine months to complete.
City commissioners earlier this year gave preliminary approval to the project after the stretch of Iowa Street deteriorated following last winter’s snow and ice. At that time, commissioners approved adding a new center turn lane on Iowa Street basically between Harvard Road and 15th Street.
But on Tuesday, city engineers said their preliminary design work had determined that additional turn lanes could be added to the 15th and Iowa intersection as well.
“We looked at this very closely because it would be a shame to do all of this work and then realize we need more lanes at the intersection too,” Soules said.
Among the intersection improvements approved by the commissioners were:
• New right-turn lanes for north-, east- and westbound traffic at the intersection.
• New dual left-turn lanes for north- and southbound traffic at the intersection.
• A repaving of 600 feet of Bob Billings Parkway, which is the road that forms the western leg of the intersection.
• A repaving of 400 feet of 15th street, which is the leg that forms the eastern leg of the intersection.
Supporters of a new 10-foot-wide hike-and-bike trail for the area did not fare as well. City commissioners rejected an idea to build a 10-foot-wide multi-use path along the west side of the road from Harvard to 15th Street. Instead, the project will include a standard 6-foot sidewalk.
City staff members recommended against the wider recreation path because it was estimated to cost about $350,000 more than a traditional sidewalk.
“Even if we got really good bids on this project, we still wouldn’t recommend proceeding with the shared-use path here because we have so many other pavement issues that need to be addressed in the city,” said City Manager David Corliss.
Neighbors were split on the issue. Several said they did not want the larger path because of the number of trees that would be lost to the project, but others said the wider path would make it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to co-exist on the path.
Also on Tuesday, the city reconfirmed its funding plan for the project. The city will receive $3 million in state funding for the project, since Iowa Street also is U.S. Highway 59. A federal safety grant will provide $1 million. The city will use $1 million in sales tax money and will issue $1 million in general obligation debt to pay for its share of the project.
In other news from Tuesday’s meeting:
• A development plan for 46 one-bedroom apartments just south of Clinton Parkway and Crossgate Drive won City Commission approval.
Commissioners unanimously approved the Crossgate Casitas, 2451 Crossgate.
Neighbors previously had expressed concern about the number of apartments that have been built in the area between Crossgate and Inverness drives. But commissioners on Tuesday said they believed the proposed project represented a reasonable amount of density for the area.
• A temporary four-way stop sign at 11th and Indiana streets was made permanent by commissioners.
Commissioners unanimously approved retaining the four-way stop for the intersection. The four-way stop was added to the area during construction of the nearby Oread hotel. After construction was finished, several residents in the area asked for the four-way stop to remain.
• Commissioners approved several revisions to the city and county’s subdivision regulations related to protection of environmentally-sensitive areas. The revisions are aimed to make it clearer what types of environmentally-sensitive properties should receive some protection as part of development projects.
The language to protect environmentally-sensitive lands has been in the city’s code for multiple years, but the language has created confusion about what must be protected. The new language spells out regulatory floodways, floodway fringe areas, wetlands, stream corridors, stands of mature trees and listed archaeological or historic sites are subject to protection. It also provides detailed definitions of each category and places limits on how much land a property owner must set aside as part of a development project.