City commissioners expected to award money to construct lighted pathway between downtown, KU campus

A plan to improve pedestrian safety by building a lighted sidewalk between downtown and Kansas University is set to receive a major boost.

City commissioners at their meeting Tuesday are expected to approve a recommendation to award the project $137,010 in funding from the city’s allocation of the Community Development Block Grant program.

“We think this will create a safety-in-numbers type of environment,” said Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant director of public works. “If we can make this the main route for pedestrians between downtown and campus, we think that will improve safety.”

The path will start in South Park at the corner of Massachusetts and North Park streets. It will cut diagonally across the park until it connects with 12th Street. It then will travel along the north side of 12th Street until it reaches the edge of campus at Louisiana Street.

The project has been on the city’s drawing board for several years, but it has struggled to win funding. Kansas University has agreed to provide $120,000 and the city has committed $50,000 in funding from other sources. Thiel said the nearly $140,000 in CDBG funding will be enough to complete the project.

Work to begin installing lighting in South Park and to repair the existing sidewalk that runs along 12th Street should begin soon. Thiel expects to have lighting installed along the entire path by the time KU classes begin next fall.

Path features

Thiel said he believes the city has worked out a good compromise with neighbors, who previously had expressed concerns about adding lights to the neighborhood. The new lights will be high-efficiency LED-lights, similar to those being installed along Massachusetts Street. In addition, the lights will be on a low illumination setting until a sensor picks up motion along the sidewalk. Then the lights temporarily will increase to greater brightness.

The funding also will allow for two pedestrian-activated crossing signals to be installed along the path. Plans call for the signals — similar to what you see downtown near the outdoor aquatic center on Kentucky Street — at 12th and Tennessee and 12th and Kentucky streets.

Both city and university leaders have been pushing for the lighted pathway project as concerns of safety in the area have grown. The Oread neighborhood area has one of the higher rates of sexual assaults in the community, according to information compiled by the city.

In addition to the pathway project, city commissioners will be asked to approve other CDBG funding recommendations. They include:

  • $83,063 to the city’s Public Works Department to partially fund construction of a sidewalk along the east side of Iowa Street from Harvard Road to the Sixth and Iowa intersection.
  • $35,800 to Community Living Opportunities to do exterior painting of seven group homes owned by the organization.
  • $33,000 to Independence Inc. to fund its accessible housing program.
  • $8,925 to the Oread Neighborhood Association for painting of crosswalks in the neighborhood. The group plans to stripe crosswalks at 14th and Tennessee, 14th and Kentucky, and 12th and Vermont streets.
  • $3,200 to the North Lawrence Improvement Association to build a new sidewalk near Third and Elm streets.
  • $1,800 to the Social Service League of Lawrence for a wood awning at its property at 905 R.I.
  • $42,054 for operations at the Lawrence Community Shelter.
  • $25,000 to Housing and Credit Counseling.
  • $20,000 to the Ballard Community Center.
  • $5,000 to the Douglas County AIDS project.

In addition the city is being asked to provide funding to five neighborhood associations that serve low-to-moderate income areas of the city. They include: $9,800 to the Oread Neighborhood Association; $9,512 to the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association; $6,740 to the North Lawrence Improvement Association; $6,624 to the Brook Creek Neighborhood Association; and $6,300 to the Pinckney Neighborhood Association.

The city receives an annual allocation of CDBG funding due to the number of low income housing areas in the community. This year, the city is receiving about $875,000 in CDBG funding and about $690,000 in funding from a related program federal housing affordability program.

City commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.