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Archive for Friday, April 5, 2013

Four-year Jayhawk Boulevard construction project could end with re-creation of old tree canopy, new center bike lane

April 5, 2013

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This rendering from the planning firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co. shows how KU's Jayhawk Boulevard could look after a reconstruction project scheduled for the next four summers. This eastward view from in front of Strong Hall shows a possible bike lane through the center of the road, as well as a re-created canopy of trees planted between the curb and sidewalk on either side. Such a canopy of elm trees was once present in the middle of the 20th Century, before disease largely wiped it out.

This rendering from the planning firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co. shows how KU's Jayhawk Boulevard could look after a reconstruction project scheduled for the next four summers. This eastward view from in front of Strong Hall shows a possible bike lane through the center of the road, as well as a re-created canopy of trees planted between the curb and sidewalk on either side. Such a canopy of elm trees was once present in the middle of the 20th Century, before disease largely wiped it out.

This photo from Kansas University's archives shows how the elm canopy over Jayhawk Boulevard looked in the 1950s. By the mid-1970s, dutch elm disease had killed most of the trees alongside the road.

This photo from Kansas University's archives shows how the elm canopy over Jayhawk Boulevard looked in the 1950s. By the mid-1970s, dutch elm disease had killed most of the trees alongside the road.

Construction coming

Expect construction and closures along Kansas University's Jayhawk Boulevard this summer — and for the next three summers after that.

Work will begin the week following KU's commencement this spring, set for May 19. It will continue until about the first week of August.

This portion of construction will take place on Jayhawk Boulevard from the Chi Omega fountain roundabout east to Poplar Lane, which runs between Snow and Strong halls. But the road will be closed this summer from Naismith Drive, in front of the Jayhawk Bookstore, to Sunflower Road, just east of Bailey Hall.

West Campus Road will also be closed north of Jayhawk Boulevard at Memorial Drive, the final intersection before it ends at the Chi Omega roundabout.

It’s going to take awhile, but Kansas University’s signature campus street is about to undergo a facelift the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades.

Over the next four summers, KU will be reconstructing Jayhawk Boulevard piece by piece. The end result could include not just new, smooth pavement and sidewalks, but also restoration of a historic tree canopy mostly absent for the last 40 years and a bicycle lane down the center of the road.

And that’s not to mention the work that will happen down below the street: new utility lines, repairs to underground utility tunnels and a new, more sustainable storm sewer system.

Altogether, KU expects to spend about $11 million in state funds on the construction, from this coming summer through summer 2016, said Jim Modig, KU’s director of design and construction management.

The first piece of construction will begin immediately after commencement in May, taking place on the boulevard’s western end at the Chi Omega fountain. Future installments will take place during the following three summers, moving eastward and then around the bend to the north.

Modig said this will be the first full-scale project of this kind for the road at the heart of KU’s campus in at least the 34 years he’s worked for the university.

“Nothing of this scale of repair and improvement,” he said.

Except for a few patches that have been repaired here and there, the road, sidewalks and utilities have been slowly crumbling. Modig said that was the impetus for the construction plans, which have been in the works for several years.

New features

But the new street could also have a couple of elements that will give it a whole new look.

In the middle of the 20th Century, rows of elm trees used to line the sides of Jayhawk Boulevard, between the curb and the sidewalk. They formed an arching canopy over the street.

But by the mid-1970s, most of the canopy had been wiped out by dutch elm disease that had spread through the campus. This construction, though, presents an opportunity to re-create it.

The plans will leave space on the sides of the road for a new canopy, and KU is working with the KU Endowment Association to raise private funds to plant trees that could frame the street just as those old elms once did.

Endowment officials are hoping they can tap into the nostalgia of alumni who remember what that scene used to look like, said Dale Slusser, assistant vice president for the Endowment.

“Our graduates have a very strong emotional tie to that, that vision of walking down Jayhawk Boulevard with the full tree canopy,” Slusser said.

Officials estimate the cost of planting a new canopy at about $1 million, he said. That would include about 200 trees and some 80,000 square feet of other landscaping.

The fundraising effort has just begun, but depending on its success, the first trees could be planted by the end of this year, Slusser said, after the first piece of construction is complete.

The new canopy would contain some disease-resistant elms similar to the historic ones, with some other species mixed in. That should ensure this one stays in place for years to come, Modig said.

“We’re putting a variety in so we have some resistance to disease wiping out everything,” he said.

Also planned is the addition of a bike lane to the street, Modig said. But lanes on the outside of the street would probably make it quite a challenge for bicyclists to navigate around the buses constantly stopping at the curb along Jayhawk Boulevard during the day, with doors swinging open and students walking on and off.

“The potential for conflict with bikes would be probably pretty high,” Modig said.

So the firm currently putting together a new master plan for the KU campus, Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co., has suggested one bike lane down the middle of the road. It’s an idea that’s been used successfully in other parts of the country, Modig said, and it helps keep bikers safe by making them more visible. And the constantly stopping buses wouldn’t be an issue.

One might imagine that buses making left turns and crossing the bike lane would present problems, but none of KU’s bus routes involve left turns at the one major intersection on Jayhawk, at Sunflower Road near Bailey Hall.

Repairs needed

Whether the center bike lane comes to fruition, the project will help replace a lot of infrastructure that’s been crumbling, Modig said. Sidewalks have cracked and shifted, creating “toe-stubbers” and creating problems for people with disabilities. New sidewalks will be smoother and contain more curb ramps that meet modern-day Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

KU will also replace some water lines that are more than a century old and repair some of the underground tunnels that carry steam and communications lines to buildings around campus.

Also outdated is the boulevard’s storm drainage system, Modig said. The street right now has only two storm sewer inlets, and when it rains heavily some water can end up flowing over the sidewalks and down the side of the hill to the north instead of draining.

“I’ve seen anywhere in the neighborhood of an inch-plus of water running over the sidewalk,” Modig said.

During the future phases of the construction, he said, planners are considering some changes to the storm sewer system that would filter the runoff, store it temporarily to allow for a metered flow and provide an irrigation system for the future canopy trees.

The first construction phase this summer will cost about $2.5 million, Modig said. Construction will be from the Chi Omega fountain east to Poplar Lane, the road that runs between Strong and Snow halls.

The boulevard will be closed from the fountain to Sunflower Road, with some sidewalks also closed.

Expect to deal with closures for the following three summers, too. But after that, you can expect the new-look Jayhawk Boulevard to stand for years to come.

Comments

flloyd 1 year, 5 months ago

Bicycle lanes? In Lawrence? Wow, what a concept! This is a VERY dangerous town to ride a bicycle. THANKS!!!

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JJE007 1 year, 5 months ago

Thanks for the information. It sounds like a project that will be much appreciated in the long run. I was about to buy a Gold parking sticker to park on Jayhawk Blvd. I guess I'll hold off on that!

I would suggest replacing the Dutch Elm Disease "resistant" Elms with Hackberry trees, but that's just me. I like to see trees with some fruit that benefits the birds (and squirrels) in the "neighborhood", but that's just me.

What are the other trees that will be planted?

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wtfusa 1 year, 5 months ago

Hopefully they will stop over trimming the trees. Looking at the trees currently on campus is an eyesore, no one in their right mind can call the current state of trees as properly maintained. They butcher the trees and it is tough to look at. Overall I like the vision for Jayhawk Blvd however.

1

Hoots 1 year, 5 months ago

I had to laugh during the drought this summer. They'd have people out cutting grass every week even though no grass had grown. It was just one huge dust cloud. Surely a similar fate has effected the trees. Those trees were going to be trimmed whether they needed it or not.

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hujiko 1 year, 5 months ago

Excellent! Time to give the Texters something new to walk into.

3

kusp8 1 year, 5 months ago

Wow. This actually seems like a really well thought out plan. I'm excited.

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Hoots 1 year, 5 months ago

Those buses will bring approximately 3 million riders onto campus for this school year. So you'd rather all those people try and stuff their cars on campus? KU's bus system is the highest volume system in the entire state by far. If you don"t believe me call KU Parking and Transit.

3

Dan Thalmann 1 year, 5 months ago

Looks good. However, I dream of the day when the headline reads "Wescoe to be torn down."

4

George_Braziller 1 year, 5 months ago

There were still some of the trees remaining 25 years ago when I was at KU. Unfortunately they kept cutting them down and never replaced any. Just kept trimming the remaining redbuds trying to keep them alive.

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kusp8 1 year, 5 months ago

+INFINITY to RuralWanderer!!!

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JayhawkFan1985 1 year, 5 months ago

Imagine light rail from Daisy Hill to downtown Lawrence along Jayhawk Blvd. There would be a lot of passengers on that line. Interestingly, the Free Stste Brewery was the station for the "inter urban" line that went from Lawrence to KC. It would be cool if Lawrence got light rail again before Kansas City did.

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Hoots 1 year, 5 months ago

Do you have any idea how expensive light rail is? KU / The City doesn't have that kind of money to throw around. That's why KC hasn't done light rail yet.

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kjh 1 year, 5 months ago

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! It has taken me many years of service to finally earn a gold parking sticker - one of the few benefits of longevity, and now decent parking will be gone. Love the trees, but leave the parking places - parking is already scarce there!

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grimpeur 1 year, 5 months ago

Whaaaaat? You've got to be kidding. There is PLENTY of parking on campus! In fact, there's TOO much--KU has more parking per capita than any other Big12 school. This is one of the main contributing factors to road wear and damage in our city. It's unnecessary and only encourages single-occupancy driving. Parking within the central area of campus should be limited to cars with two or more people in them. Actually, let's make it three. And permit prices should be tripled to come in line with other universities.

Gotta say, though: Jayhawk Blvd looks great without cars littering the curbs.

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Thinking_Out_Loud 1 year, 5 months ago

If by "decent parking" you mean "right in front of my building's front door," you have a valid concern. If by "decent parking" you mean "within reasonable walking distance that most commuters in an urban area would find acceptable," you are quite mistaken.

Midwesterners in general, and Kansans in particular, have unreasonable expectations about how closely to work (or even shopping) they should be able to park.

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Jen43 1 year, 5 months ago

Hackberry trees? Have you ever seen the mess the so-called fruit makes on the sidewalks? Or for that matter wait 'til the students start getting a regular dose of bird droppings in their hair every day. During warm weather, try parking your car under a tree and after a few days you will see what I mean.

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deec 1 year, 5 months ago

Plant fruit trees and use the fruit in the dormitory dining halls.

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9070811 1 year, 5 months ago

No mention of the disability accessible changes for Jayhawk Blvd. I know KU is planning them, could we have an update on those as well? AccessibleKU has developed a task force/ committee of some sort focusing on this.

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konzahawk 1 year, 5 months ago

The modern-looking lighting also needs to be replaced with period lighting. We have one hundred year old buildings next to 1990s light poles. Bring back the old lights, similar to those downtown.

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BobBoyce 1 year, 5 months ago

Lincoln, NE has bike lanes in the middle of the street, and bikers and motorists alike consider them dangerous--as they are. Bikes now travel the same speed as cars on Jayhawk Boulevard--why do you think bike lanes are needed? Bike lanes do NOT, in fact, make cyclists more visible--the exact opposite is true. If a cyclist is in the lane in front of a motorist, s/he will be seen, and watched. If s/he is in a bike lane, the motorist will ignore him or her until one or the other come in conflict. Ditch the lanes--bad idea. Make it clear that cyclists have a right to use the street with signs.

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