“Stop and go” may be the unofficial slogan of Lawrence this summer. Motorists who drive the city’s streets know what we’re talking about.
Road construction is taking place on many of the city’s major streets. Among the locations that have been affected are Kasold Drive between Clinton Parkway and 31st Street, Sixth Street from Massachusetts to Iowa Street, Sixth Street between Folks and Monterey Way, Bob Billings Parkway between Kasold and Crestline, the Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive intersection, and an ever-changing list of downtown locations where crews are repairing crumbling curbs.
If you think navigating the city has been challenging this summer though, just wait until next summer. Plans call for rebuilding Iowa Street between Harvard and the Irving Hill overpass, replacing the 23rd Street bridge near Haskell Indian Nations University, repaving Sixth Street west of Iowa and rebuilding Wakarusa Drive near Bob Billings Parkway. That’s right, Sixth Street, Iowa Street and 23rd Street all will have significant projects on them next year, likely all at the same time.
For motorists, it is a pain, but it also is a sign of progress. After all, “stop and go” is a far better slogan than “drive and dodge.” That has been the reality for too long in Lawrence. Motorists were constantly dodging potholes and crumbling curbs that not only damage tires but also damage the reputation of our community. In many areas of the city, those issues still exist.
In a very real way city residents asked for all this roadwork when they overwhelmingly approved a new sales tax in 2008 to fund additional infrastructure repairs. As economic growth continues to be stagnant, city commissioners will need to resist the temptation to skimp on street maintenance in order to balance budgets. We’ve traveled down that road before, and it is a mighty bumpy one. Thus far, commissioners have done well in keeping the commitment they made to voters who approved the new infrastructure tax.
Still, it is unfortunate that so much work needs to be done. A city audit is forthcoming that examines the standards our streets were built to in the past. Too many streets have had to be rebuilt or repaired far to soon after they were built. Hopefully, that audit takes a hard, honest look at the issue and provides us a road map of pitfalls to avoid in the future. We certainly hope that the auditor is able to report that the city is building its streets to significantly higher standards today. Otherwise, this summer of costly construction truly would be unbearable.