Archive for Friday, October 19, 2012

Town Talk: Proposed roundabout for Ninth and New Hampshire to get hearing; renderings for new multi-story building downtown; Ninth Street improvements planned

October 19, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Get ready to go round and round about another large development at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

No, this time the discussion will be a little different than it was for the big debate surrounding a multi-story hotel at the southeast corner of the intersection. Now, we’ll actually be debating whether we should go round and round, as in whether there should be a roundabout installed in the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

If you remember, a development group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor has proposed a seven-story apartment and office building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire. As we previously reported, the city’s Historic Resources Commission already has approved the design of the building, which tops out at 77 feet at its tallest point. So unlike the controversial hotel project across the street, this project won’t have to go through a contentious design review by the City Commission. The design is set.

What is not set is the idea of a roundabout at Ninth and New Hampshire. The development group has sought approval to build a roundabout at the intersection in order to help move traffic and to provide what they think will be safer pedestrian crossings.

The city’s Historic Resources Commission and the city’s planning staff have kind of thrown up their hands on that request. The city’s multitude of downtown plans don’t really address the idea of roundabouts in downtown. So, city commissioners will get to figure it out.

As proposed, the roundabout would be 90 feet in diameter, which is the same size of roundabout that is located at 19th and Barker in East Lawrence.

The city’s staff memo indicates the intersection could become more pedestrian-friendly with a roundabout. That’s because the pedestrian crossings no longer would be right at the intersection but instead would be placed a bit before the intersection. I haven’t seen a proposed design of the roundabout, but the city memo indicates the design would provide an island that would provide some refuge for pedestrians.

The staff memo also states roundabouts are “efficient and safe alternatives” for moving traffic through an intersection. But the memo doesn’t discuss how well roundabouts work in areas where there is significant truck traffic. At first glance you wouldn’t think there is a lot of truck traffic in downtown, but a host of restaurants and stores have deliveries made everyday via truck. I’m not sure how well trucks navigate the roundabout at 19th and Barker.

I’ve been told the roundabout at Ninth and New Hampshire likely will have some sort of signature art piece at its center. Based on what some trucker friends have told me about how they navigate a roundabout —straight over the curb — the city may want to consider putting an artsy-looking cement mixer in the center of the roundabout. It may be handy for crews repairing crumbling curbs.

Commissioners will consider the roundabout issue at its 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

• For those of you who want to know what downtown’s newest multi-story building will look like, the folks at Treanor Architects have developed a new set of color renderings for the project. The rendering to the side of this article shows the western edge of the building that will face New Hampshire street. But click here to see the design for all four sides of the building.

As a reminder, the bulk of the building will be devoted to apartment units. A total of 121 apartment units will occupy floors two through seven, while the ground floor will accommodate office space that will be anchored by new offices for Lawrence Bank. The existing building on the corner — which includes offices for Lawrence Bank, Adecco personnel services and formerly for Black Hills Energy until the natural gas company moved to a new office on North Iowa — will be demolished.

Here are the latest renderings for the proposed office and apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. This view is of the western front of the building, which faces New Hampshire Street.

Here are the latest renderings for the proposed office and apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. This view is of the western front of the building, which faces New Hampshire Street.

The new building will range in height from 68 feet to 77 feet. It also will include its own underground parking, which will have its entrance and exit on the alley. The project is scheduled to include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and I gather they will come with some unique amenities for downtown. Perhaps the most unique is that the building currently is designed to have a rooftop pool to serve residents. The hotel at the southeast corner no longer will have a rooftop pool, but it will have a ground-level, indoor pool. Who would have ever guessed even a couple of years ago that Ninth and New Hampshire would be the site of two swimming pools?

As I mentioned earlier, the major design elements of this building — which at 177,000 square feet will be the largest of the three new multi-story buildings at the intersection — have been approved. Height, scale and massing issues have all passed historic muster at City Hall.

But the developers are seeking city commissioners to vary from one finding of the city’s Historic Resources Commission. The approved plans call for parallel parking along New Hampshire street. The developers want to have a 9-foot setback along New Hampshire Street that would allow for an extra-wide 13-foot sidewalk and angled parking stalls. The angled parking stalls would be similar to those in front of the Hobbs Taylor Lofts at Eighth and New Hampshire.

The Historic Resources Commission, however, balked at that idea, saying the historic pattern of downtown is to have buildings up near the streets. But the developers note that the angled parking configuration will allow for 19 public parking spaces in front of the building. The parallel parking arrangement will provide only eight spaces.

The request comes at an interesting time politically. The city is contemplating spending $1 million and placing a special assessment on all downtown property owners to pay for an additional level of public parking at the proposed library parking garage. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if the city moves ahead with that project but then denies a request by a private development to add more public parking spaces.

• Speaking of downtown parking, there may be one thing that trumps it — bike lanes.

There are significant changes coming to the portion of Ninth Street between Tennessee and Kentucky streets. The city has received about $150,000 in federal funds to add a center turn lane and two bike lanes to the one-block stretch of street.

But to make room for it all, city engineers are recommending that seven public parking spaces along the street be removed. The parallel parking spaces basically are in front of the law office of Lawrence attorney Todd Thompson and in front of the 901 Kentucky Street office building.

According to a city memo, the owners of the Kentucky Street office building don’t object to the removal of the parking, but Thompson does.

City engineers, though, are excited about the project. They say the addition of a center turn lane will improve safety on the street since vehicles turning left will be out of the main flow of traffic. The project also will include a new, more advanced traffic signal at Ninth and Tennessee.

The two bike lanes both will be five feet wide, which continues a city trend to add bike lanes to major streets when significant construction is undertaken. To fit all the lanes in, however, the city — in addition to removing the parking — will need to reduce the width of the vehicle lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet.

If commissioners approve the project at their Tuesday evening meeting, construction likely would begin in the spring and would be completed by mid-August.


chzypoof1 5 years, 7 months ago

SMH...ANOTHER roundabout? In downtown? Just make sure you put something in the middle the impedes the view of the drivers (like the other ones in town) so it's COMPLETELY unsafe....


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago


Which describes your understanding of how to drive through a roundabout.

chzypoof1 5 years, 7 months ago

Thank you for your educated response Bozo. Typical. Have a great day.

Brian Laird 5 years, 7 months ago

The way roundabouts work you only need to be able to see to your left - there is no need to see across the intersection. You have no evidence that it is unsafe - properly constructed roundabouts - like that at 19th and Barker - are far safer statistically than four-way stops.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Traffic runs in both directions on Barker. If the traffic on 19th is coming primarily from the west, then the south-bound traffic on Barker has the right-of-way, and can interrupt that flow of traffic, which then gives the northbound traffic the opportunity to enter the round-about.

And as krichards points out, when the traffic is heavy, you sometimes have to wait, no matter what type of intersection it is.

Frank A Janzen 5 years, 7 months ago

There are thousands of roundabouts in Europe, Canada, the Mid East, and in many other countries. We need to get with the program. I just takes a little orientation/education. We can do it.

chzypoof1 5 years, 7 months ago

Ideally yes...but when no one yields, just drives into them without looking, the lack of view causes issues. IMHO.

akuna 5 years, 7 months ago

Really this is a diver education problem more than the obstacle. Drivers approaching a roundabout are supposed to yield to cars to their right in the roundabout.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, you're supposed to yield to the cars on the left.

scribe 5 years, 7 months ago

How much pedestrian traffic is there at 19th and Barker? I would guess not nearly as much as there is at 9th and NH. Drivers are going to have to split their attention not only to their left, but all directions for pedestrians who decide not to use a crosswalk...and there are plenty of those downtown.

akuna 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, and we all know how much drivers in this town don't pay attention.

Bob Forer 5 years, 7 months ago

"The way roundabouts work you only need to be able to see to your left "

I don't think that is entirely true. I believe that a vehicle in the roundabout has the right over vehicles that have not entered the roundabout. In order to make a left turn on a roundabout, you need to traverse 3/4 of the circle. When a car is approaching from the opposite direction it would be safer for that car to be able to view a vehicle which has already entered from the opposite side, so in cases where that vehicle intends to make a left turn, it will be noticed before it is directly to the left of the vehicle who must yield the right of way.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

If you can't see them immediately to your left, then it's perfectly safe for you to enter the intersection, no matter where you intend to exit, or where other vehicles are entering from.

John Hamm 5 years, 7 months ago

If you don't look to your right as you enter one - especially 19th & Barker - you won't be at fault, having the right-of-way, but you'll be in a wreck or two......

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

Build the roundabout surrounded completely by mirrors. That ought to make things interesting.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 7 months ago

Being thankful that someone provides you with a job does not mean that you automatically want a statue of them in the middle of the street.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

I wonder how thankful Doug is that his employees, the city and customers make it possible for him to make lots of money.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

Hopefully he is thankful for with what amounts to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

One would hope so.

But, from comments on here, and other things, it seems to me that many people overweight the contributions of those with the money and at the top, while ignoring/minimizing those of those at the bottom and middle.

The truth, it seems to me, is that it is a mutually beneficial relationship in theory, and if everybody is aware of that, and acts accordingly, but not always in practice.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

We all complain about taxes, yet we want the police, fire dept., schools, roads with no potholes, etc. It's human nature. And it seems we're always willing to raise the other guy's taxes but are still most concerned about the schools we attend, or the roads we drive on, etc. Again, we're really talking about an awful lot of human nature. Even if Compton, or some other rich guy, some other developer, etc. was less than 100% thankful, then they're behaving exactly like the overwhelming majority of us. Still, I'm thankful he pays his taxes, you pay your taxes, I pay my taxes and we all pay for the fire dept., even though I've never had a need for their services. And I'll be thankful if one of the carpenters who works for Compton spends some of his hard earned money in my business. If he does, then some of the taxes I pay will go to fill the pothole on your street, whether or not Compton gives a hoot.

scribe 5 years, 7 months ago

I am all for roundabouts but not where there is heavy pedestrian traffic. I don't want to have to take refuge on an island just to keep from getting hit. I'm not even sure the roundabout will navigable for the buses and trucks that use that street.

Bob Forer 5 years, 7 months ago

How is this safer for pedestrians? A roundabout slows traffic; it doesn't stop it. One can infer from the article that there will be crosswalks on the four streets leading to the roundabout at a distance from the roundabout, but apparently no stop signs. So instead of coming to a full stop, cars will only be require to yield to pedestrians if they see them entering the crosswalk while their vehicle is in motion. How is this safer? With a four way stop, the vehicles will be required to stop regardless of pedestrian activity., instead of being slowed by the roundabout.

Additionally, one would assume that the hotel will attract out-of-town guess with no roundabout driving experience. I wouldn't think it would be wise to inject driver confusion in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic.

And by the way, if this project cannot be built without taxpayer money, why are the developers seeking to spend an extra $200,000 plus on a roundabout. Or are they expecting the additional cost to come from our pockets?

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago


there is NO *turn FOR PEDESTRIANS!


LadyJ 5 years, 7 months ago

Gnome is right. I went to the meeting for the proposed roundabout for 19th and Louisianna. There is a "magic number" for pedestrians before they totally impead traffic. During events and such when foot traffic would be high, traffic would not be able to move through.

Bob Forer 5 years, 7 months ago

A simple solution for events. Dispatch a cop to direct traffic for thirty minutes when there is heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Do football and basketball games ring a bell?

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 7 months ago

Beautiful building that will look great on our downtown skyline! Hopefully all the negativity people on these blogs will invest some money in making our downtown better, rather than trying to impede improvements.

Laura Wilson 5 years, 7 months ago

I like roundabouts. People here just don't know how to utilize them properly. Spend anytime driving outside of the major cities in Europe and you'll learn pretty quickly.

I do have issues with the ridiculous amount of money spent here beautifying them with bricks and faux gas lamps and plantings. Several of the elaborate roundabouts in Lawrence would be little more than yellow round humps to drive around overseas.

That said, while I don't have a problem with a roundabout at 9th and New Hampshire, an intersection I drive through at least four times a week, the pedestrian crossing idea sounds dangerous. You can't safely cross in a roundabout. In England the crossings are often well back, but the distance between Mass and NH on 9th is so short and so heavily trafficked, this isn't feasible. There are already crossings in the middle of New Hampshire (the one between 10th and 9th being lighted and bricked). Adding another seems burdensome to drivers having to stop twice in a half block stretch.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

I thought we were done in Lawrence wih this damned roundabout crap!!

See what you get when you don't vote in local elections, idiots and jerks with no sense or capability get voted in and get to inflict their stupid and dangerous notions on the community.

Roundabouts are NOT safe, I have nearly been hit at several of these "safe" locations. Local drivers do not understand them, will NEVER understand them, and you hazard your life if you do not plan to avoid these stupid European creations.

I am out on the streets regularly in my work each day and I see some of the most reckless, jerks in the country out who do not understand flashing yellow arrows, yellow stop lights RED stop lights for Christ's sake!! Ditto "stop" signs on school busses, stop signs on CORNERS, and other raffic signs. Ditto idiots who drive in a driving rainstorm, or pre-dawn darkness or late evening dusk with out any headlights, Yeah, you are a hero you can see in the dark. Maybe others cannot see you, didja ever think of that??)

What the nell makes any idiot in city government think that these drivers will heed any of the cautions required by this continuing to build these damned whilygigs???

Gareth Skarka 5 years, 7 months ago

It's simultaneously sad and freakin' hilarious to see all the hayseeds lamenting roundabouts as "dangerous" and "deathtraps."

Learn how to drive, chuckleheads. You're not on the farm dirt roads any more.

It's very simple. Look to your left. Is there somebody in the roundabout? They have right of way.

GOSH, that was so difficult.

BinxBolloxed 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes! The Europeans have been successfully executing roundabouts for ages. I miss roundabouts from my time driving in the U.K. because they help traffic flow, and they help prevent some of the most dangerous accidents that can occur at intersections (e.g., T-bone accidents at 40 mph).

Come on, Yanks! Stop yer for pedestrians as you approach, look to the left for traffic, watch for pedestrians as you enter the roundabout. If you are incapable of performing this series of operations, relinquish your driving license and take the bloody bus.

5 years, 7 months ago

I know that the city was looking at putting in a roundabout at 19th & Louisiana at the high school and decided not to. I would think that decision making had to do with pedestrian safety.

Armored_One 5 years, 7 months ago

Drive south on Connecticut to the roundabout at 19th Street. I have, seeing as I live somewhat close to that roundabout. I have yet to see anyone yield to anyone, especially any traffic travelling on 19th Street.

This is not Europe. Stop trying to act as if there is some kind of a renaissance happening in Lawrence. There is nothing wrong with stop signs or even a stop light. Ten bucks says whatever putz recommended this is going to expect the city to pay for it's construction, and once it's built with our money, repairs and maintenance will come out of our pockets as well.

Twenty bucks says it'll get approved, even if every resident of Lawrence showed up to the meeting and unanimously said 'No' to the idea.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

"I have yet to see anyone yield to anyone, especially any traffic travelling on 19th Street."

I've been through that intersection hundreds of times since it was built, and the notion that no one yields there probably says more about your observational skills than what actually occurs.

Are there people who fail to yield properly? Of course, and they probably do the same thing where there are four-way stops and at merge lanes on controlled access highways. This is a problem with bad drivers, not with roundabouts. And the best thing about roundabouts is that when these idiots do cause an accident, the risk of serious damage and injury is much less than at other types of intersections for the simple reason that everyone is traveling in nearly the same direction.

Armored_One 5 years, 7 months ago

I drive through it almost daily. Maybe I should take a video camera, with the date/time stamp turned on, and take some video. On the other hand, I have yet to see anyone fail to stop at 15th and Connecticut where there is a gasp stop sign.

Again, I ask why the need for roundabouts in a city that existed for how many decades without them? If the city has such issues with funds, a set of stop signs would be cheaper than footing he bill for another million dollar roundabout. Since the stop signs are already there, that should make it even cheaper.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

"On the other hand, I have yet to see anyone fail to stop at 15th and Connecticut where there is a gasp stop sign."

Get real-- every time I come to ANY four-way stop, especially when the traffic is heavy, there is usually much confusion among drivers about whose turn it is to go, and the very nature of 4-ways that requires everyone to stop means that traffic can get backed up very quickly.

"Again, I ask why the need for roundabouts in a city that existed for how many decades without them?"

That's easy. At the intersection of 19th and Barker, traffic flows through that intersection orders of magnitude quicker than when it was a 4-way stop, the accident rate has dropped, and what accidents do occur are of lesser severity. The same holds true at any intersection that has one.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

The confusion is hard to understand - can people not count to 4?

I haven't seen many folks simply blow through a 4-way stop, which I think was his point.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

"I haven't seen many folks simply blow through a 4-way stop, which I think was his point."

Happened to me just yesterday. A pickup pulling a trailer didn't even make a pretense of stopping, even though I was clearly there first, and had the right of way to boot.

As far as blowing through, it's a rarity, but there is a very high percentage of drivers who don't observe the right of way, and figure that merely rolling through is as good as stopping, and believe that that invalidates anyone else's right of way.

And what is an everyday occurrence at four-ways is four drivers just sitting there staring at each other because they haven't been paying enough attention to know whose turn it is.

COjayrocks 5 years, 7 months ago

The link to the additional elevation views of the NH building does not seem to work. Anyone else having trouble?

akuna 5 years, 7 months ago

Wouldn't a yield to pedestrian sign or a pedestrian cross signal solve the pedestrian problem?

Mark Sanders 5 years, 7 months ago

Read Gareths post. It is so simple and works well. If someone is in the round about they have the right of way. Yield to them.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 7 months ago

Wouldn't a yield to pedestrian sign or a pedestrian cross signal solve the pedestrian problem?




just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

The only reason you need to see whether pedestrians are on the opposite side of the intersection is if you're gunning for them. I mean, really, the speed limit in a roundabout is 15mph-- if you can't see a pedestrian in front of you trying to cross the street and stop for them, you really shouldn't be driving at all.

classclown 5 years, 7 months ago

Isn't there a waiting list for roundabout installation? I seem to remember reading a while back about the city not being able to afford to put one in everywhere they were wanted. Therefore they were put on a list until the city came up with the money to build them in the order they went on the list.

I'm sure one way or another the city will be footing the bill for this so shouldn't this one be put on the list?

classclown 5 years, 7 months ago

Then again, this town and its denizens have a proud history of bending over and taking it as long as it's something for downtown, Compton, or KU. This one actually meets two of those criteria.

RoeDapple 5 years, 7 months ago

Just another good reason to avoid the stench of downtown. I will miss ZenZero though.

Stephanie Hull 5 years, 7 months ago

I drive through the roundabout at 19th & Barker every day, and I love it. However, I cannot imagine having one downtown -- especially one that size. It's too small to give you a good chance to look both ways for pedestrians, even at 10-15 mph. It would be even more dangerous on weekends when those pedestrians are likely to have been drinking.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

It's not particularly friendly for pedestrians as it is.

John Hamm 5 years, 7 months ago

Bang! With this comment we know it's wrong two ways. "but the city memo indicates the design would provide an island that would provide some refuge for pedestrians. " 1) If the roundabout is safer why do pedestrians need "some refuge?" 2) IF this was reasonably enforced, "The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter" there wouldn't be any problem at all.

waitjustaminute 5 years, 7 months ago

Really. A round-a-butt at 9th and NH? Better put a gi-normous fire hydrant in the middle so when firetrucks need to respond in a hurry, they can hook up there instead of creeping around and through because "traffic moves more efficiently through a round-a-butt." And when Mass and NH and Vermont and all the side streets are nothing but ashes, due to a major fire, we can say, but that round-a-butt held up well. Except of course, when the drunk college student drove his mom and dad's Lexus into it, but other than that . . . . only in Lawrence.

irvan moore 5 years, 7 months ago

stop signs are cheaper and work, forget the roundabout please

Jennifer Dropkin 5 years, 7 months ago

The real issue is driver behavior--lack of attention and either an inability or a lack of interest in acknowledging the presence of noncar traffic. So many drivers don't stop or even slow down. I've seen drivers blow through the four-way stop at Ninth and New Hampshire. I've seen them--frequently--drive towards pedestrians who are legally crossing. A roundabout is a traffic-calming device, meant to slow drivers down so others can negotiate the intersection. Pouting and railing against roundabouts is more about a personal wish not to change behavior than it is about considering the pros and cons of roundabouts. My take is that something is needed at that intersection, but I'm not sure a roundabout is the best choice--I don't think it can be large enough to work effectively there.

Jennifer Dropkin 5 years, 7 months ago

As the intersection is right now (a four-way stop), a pedestrian has to look in all four directions while crossing to cross safely (because many drivers think a "stop" means a tap on the brake and then accelerate). With a roundabout, a pedestrian will have to look in two directions only, so in that sense, a roundabout is safer. But I still don't think that Ninth and New Hampshire has the room for a functional roundabout.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

The problem for pedestrians at roundabouts lies 100% with drivers and the refusal of too many to pay attention.

Typically, there are NO pedestrians in the roundabout. So, as a driver, you only need to be concerned about pedestrians twice. Once BEFORE you enter the roundabout-- Is there a pedestrian attempting to cross? If so, let them before proceeding into the roundabout. The second time is BEFORE you exit the roundabout. Same as before you enter, Is there a pedestrian attempting to cross? If so, let them before proceeding out of the roundabout. It's that simple.

W/ regards to the size of the roundabout-- the one at 19th and Barker is big enough to allow nearly any vehicle to travel through it, even though some of the (much) larger ones may have to hop the short curb in the center. If it were made any bigger, it would encourage higher speeds and encourage those with lead feet to blast through it.

And if there was no structure at the center, this would encourage drivers to drive across that center rather than around it, which would be very dangerous.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

I suspect that a downtown roundabout would have a lot more pedestrian traffic than one at 19th and Barker.

Do you think it's a good idea downtown? I would say no, personally.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Pedestrians are a concern, but as I noted in an earlier post, the existing intersection isn't pedestrian friendly, either, primarily for the same reasons a roundabout is problematic-- too many drivers pay little or no attention to pedestrians.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like operator error to me. Perhaps you should do us all a favor and consider using public transportation.

jhawk1998 5 years, 7 months ago

Round-abouts are not designed to be retrofitted into an existing intersection. Round-abouts should only be used when new streets are installed that allow for the proper turning radius.

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