Archive for Tuesday, December 18, 2012

City agrees to close portion of 15th/Bob Billings Parkway for summer of 2013, despite objections

December 18, 2012


It will be the new summer pastime of 2013: Watching and wondering whether the main intersection leading to Kansas University will be open by the time students start arriving for the school year.

Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday stood by a November 2011 decision to close the portions of Bob Billings Parkway/15th Street for several hundred feet east and west of Iowa Street while crews in the area rebuild the road.

Commissioners agreed to close the portion of the road from May 20 to as late as Aug. 16, despite hearing from about 10 neighbors and businesses who said the road closure would severely affect their businesses or daily lives.

“This is the time of year that new residents are picking the places they go to shop,” said Carrie Warden, an owner of The Scone Lady’s Coffee Shop, 3300 Bob Billings Parkway. “If they can’t find us in the first couple of weeks, they’ll find other places to go.”

City commissioners said they sympathized with the businesses and directed the city manager to come up with an appropriate incentive amount — perhaps as much as $100,000 — to offer to contractors if they can get the project done before Aug. 1, which is the traditional move-in date for apartment residents.

But commissioners unanimously rejected pleas to keep the road open during the project. Commissioners were told by the city’s public works director that the change in plans at this late stage would likely delay the start of the project by four months. In addition, construction work would happen at a slower pace, and the project almost certainly would not be completed before the winter season forced construction work to halt. That means the project would not be finished until the spring of 2014.

The project will be one of the more significant road projects undertaken in recent years. The city, with the help of state and federal money, will undertake a $6.5 million rebuilding of Iowa Street from Harvard Road to the Irving Hill overpass.

The project, which will add a center turn lane to the section of road, is scheduled to start construction Feb. 1 and last into November. Bob Billings Parkway/15th Street, however, is scheduled to be closed only during the summer, while crews smooth out the hill at the intersection and add new turn lanes. At least one lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained on Iowa Street throughout the project.

Commissioners on Tuesday announced they had received permission from KU leaders to run the official detour for the project through West Campus. Motorists will be able to turn west at 19th and Iowa streets and travel through the campus roads by the Lied Center and the Dole Institute of Politics and re-enter Bob Billings Parkway at Crestline Drive.

Commissioners also committed to put up signs seeking to discourage cut through traffic into other neighborhoods near the construction zone.


KU_cynic 5 years, 6 months ago

What are the proposed routes for KU students and employees who would typically enter the KU campus in the morning eastbound at 15th and Iowa and exit the campus at that intersection in the evening? Routing most of that traffic up Irving Hill Road onto west campus and then down Crestline would be a real mess without some extraordinary steps including a) crossing guards or a signaled pedestrian crosswalk at the top of hill; b) more generously timed signals at Crestline and 15th and 19th and Iowa; and c) a left (west) turning arrow signal at Crestline and 15th to facilitate traffic flow at the end of the day. Another point of inconvenience will be on Irving Hill road where parents typically drop off kids at the Hilltop center; exiting there and attempting to turn left in the morning will be very difficult against constant traffic coming down Irving Hill Road.

This is going to be a big mess. It will be a horrible mess if construction isn't finished by the start of the fall semester at KU. Giddy up.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 6 months ago

One items commissioners discussed last night is a shuttle service that would run between Crestline and about Engle Road during the day when KU summer classes and such are in session. The bus would give pedestrians an option to ride to campus rather than take what city commissioners recognize would be a lengthy detour for a pedestrian. City engineers stressed it won't be safe for pedestrians to cross at 15th and Iowa because of all the construction, and estimates are that a few hundred pedestrians cross at that intersection each school day. Thus, the shuttle idea. Staff members last night were directed to begin studying the feasibility of a shuttle. Thanks, Chad

blondejuan 5 years, 6 months ago

Would Bob Schumm have the same decision if they closed mass street and customers couldn't easily get to Buffalo Bobs or his tenants businesses. The city should do signage, newspaper and Internet advertising for all those businesses. Times are tough for small businesses. The commission could have more sympathy.

Take_a_letter_Maria 5 years, 6 months ago

There have been times, in the recent past, where sections of Mass. were closed to traffic for extended periods of time. So, yes, the same move has been made.

MattressMan 5 years, 6 months ago

Shut it down and rebuild it. If you live in the area or drive through it daily figure out (now) the best alternate route that works for you. People act like driving an extra 5/10 minutes or 2/3 miles using an alternate route will ruin their lives. Besides they are doing the intersection in the summer when most students are gone which means less traffic.

Why should the city do advertising for the businesses in the area? They know it's coming so they can be proactive and start informing their existing customers now.

grimpeur 5 years, 6 months ago

I wonder if any of the drivers who are complaining about the closure will be concerned enough to try to carpool, walk, bike or take the bus--anything at all, even the smallest change in habit--to improve matters.

For 99% of the people going to KU from anywhere inside the city limits, a car should be unnecessary. If you're driving these embarrassingly short distances anyway, you should have someone in the car with you. Same for if you're driving in from out of town--find someone to share the ride. Anyone truly concerned about traffic and congestion will do something about it. Those who aren't truly concerned won't. They will still be alone in their cars, with 4-6 empty seats, probably complaining about traffic.

Businesses at BB and Kasold are concerned about the effect of the closure 1 mile to the east because they probably realize that drivers seem to think a 1-mile-or-less detour--to Crestline or Harvard, in a car, where all you have to do is push on a gas or brake pedal, fer pete's sake--is too much of an inconvenience. Ohhh, the horrors!

Worried about too much traffic? Then don't add to it.

Remember, this is all because of the two-way left turn lane on Iowa--the one that is designed to encourage more KU traffic to cut through the Hillcrest/Summit area. This traffic should be forced to stay on US59 until 15th St., where KU should take responsibility for it. The left-turn lane is unnecessary, and is a bad reaction to the bad habits and inattentiveness of typical motorists on Iowa. Left turns should have been prohibited between Harvard and 15th. Yes, this would mean locals would have to plan their routes to obviate the need for left turns from Iowa. And yes, I realize that this is too much to ask of our poor, put-upon, downtrodden motorists. Thus the left-turn lane.

Oh, yeah...I'm not a Hillcrest resident.

Tomato 5 years, 6 months ago

Actually, I used to do that when I went to KU. I would bike from West Lawrence all the way to school. It was great exercise until the weather cracked 90 degrees. Have you ever stood beside your bike in the shade during a 95 degree day, choking on water and feeling like you might die with ten minutes to ride until you get home?

I have.

So then I decided to bike only in the morning. My bus only came once an hour, but it didn't reliably come on time. It could be ten minutes early or ten minutes late. In the afternoons I would ride to my bus stop and wait in the sun (because there was no shade), then load my bike onto the rack.

Eventually it got too hot to ride even in the mornings. So I walked fifteen minutes to my bus stop (also not pleasant or convenient).

I did finish out the semester rather than buy a parking pass, but I would never do it again. Not Summer in Lawrence. No way.

Chris Phillips 5 years, 6 months ago

I've about had it with all the whiners. Life is hard. Change happens. Deal with it. Get over it. Move on.

mdlund0 5 years, 6 months ago

I wish I could 'like' this comment 1000 times.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 6 months ago

Ok, I'm not too far away from the "The Scone Lady’s Coffee Shop" and I didn't even know it existed (and I've been here for quite a while). Sorry :/

MarcoPogo 5 years, 6 months ago

Let's get down to Brass Apples here...Scones's biggest problem isn't that the road will be closed; it's that they set up shop in a strip mall that has left a trail of failed businesses in its wake (facing south at Kasold & Bob Billings). I wish them all the luck in the world but when one of the major intersections in town needs this kind of repair, it should be done in the quickest way possible as to minimize the overall chaos.

Now, what is that church on the corner going to do?

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 6 months ago

My understanding is the church will still have access to their parking lot and such, but the access likely won't be off of Iowa Street. Construction crews will have a to leave a path clear so access to the property can be maintained. Thanks, Chad

gccs14r 5 years, 6 months ago

Too bad they can't do a cut 'n cover ped tunnel under the intersection while they have it torn up. Prefab it, bring it in on a couple of flatbeds, dig a trench, drop in the pieces, and do the electrical hookup. Be done in a day while other work is going on around it.

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