23rd Street repairs
City engineers know that Iowa Street isn’t the only major roadway that has been battered by the winter weather.
Plans are under way to speed up a project to repave 23rd Street from Haskell Avenue to the eastern city limits. The state has committed $350,000 to repave the stretch of road, but the state’s normal timeline would not allow that work to begin until August.
Lawrence Public Works Director Chuck Soules said he believes the city has reached an agreement with the state to allow that work to begin as soon as school is out in late May.
Currently, there are no plans to entirely rebuild that stretch of road. Instead, Soules believes the city can do extended work on the joints of the road to correct many of the pothole problems.
Mother Nature has pounded Iowa Street this winter, and now the city’s engineers are ready to wave a $5 million white flag.
At their meeting this evening, city commissioners will receive a recommendation from engineers to begin design work for a $5 million rebuilding of Iowa Street between Yale Road and the Irving Hill overpass.
Originally, plans called for the section of street to receive a standard repaving, but this winter’s harsh weather caused engineers to rethink that strategy.
“We have had some areas that have just failed,” Chuck Soules, director of public works, said. “We’ve thought about it a lot, and we’ve come to the conclusion that if we repave it, we’ll just be covering up a problem.”
The change will require a major reshuffling of the city’s street maintenance program. Commissioners previously had approved an $850,000 project to repave and do major median, curb and sidewalk work to Kasold Drive between Sixth Street and Peterson Road. Now, engineers are recommending that much of that project be delayed in order to do major patching and paving work on Iowa and several other streets.
Soules said that even if commissioners approve the rebuilding of Iowa, major patching work is needed because construction work won’t begin until 2012.
“We’re going to have to do something in the interim, or we won’t be able to use the road,” Soules said.
Other streets that are expected receive patching and paving work from the $850,000 being redirected from the Kasold project include:
• 31st Street from Ousdahl Road to the eastern edge of the city’s maintenance territory.
• Louisiana from 19th to 23rd streets.
• Sixth Street from Monterey Way to Folks Road.
• Kasold from Fifth Terrace to Peterson Road.
The Iowa Street project also is expected to reopen a major neighborhood debate. Engineers are recommending that commissioners consider adding a center turn lane to the section of Iowa Street.
During the past two years, there have been 61 accidents on the stretch of road related to vehicles turning onto or off the side streets that connect to Iowa.
Some neighbors, though, have previously fought efforts to add a center turn lane because they fear it will encourage more motorists to use their neighborhoods as a shortcut to Kansas University.
“I’m not sure what the position will be,” said Robert Lewis, vice president of West Hills Homeowners Association. “It has been pretty well divided in the past. But there are people who recognize something has to be done. It is dangerous. You have to be a jack rabbit to get out on Iowa.”
Mayor Rob Chestnut said he’s ready to have a complete discussion about Iowa Street.
“The traffic accident data tells us that we need to take another look at that turning lane again,” Chestnut said. “We have some significant issues on that road. We have issues on other roads, too, but Iowa between Ninth and Bob Billings is such a major, major part of our street system.”
Figuring out how to pay for the $5 million project will be part of the discussion. City staff members are recommending that $500,000 come from the city’s sales tax maintenance program; $200,000 from the state’s maintenance program for state highways; $400,000 from the city’s capital improvements program; $800,000 from a federal safety grant the city can apply for; and $1 million from federal funds the city annually receives for transportation projects.
That would leave the city with $2.1 million it would have to borrow to complete the project, assuming the city received the various state and federal funding it anticipates. Iowa Street is part of U.S. Highway 59.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.