Simply ignoring the brick streets in Lawrence’s older neighborhoods is not a winning strategy.
Because it hasn’t had a policy on when to rebuild brick streets and when to seek another option, the city has allowed the streets in some neighborhoods to fall into serious disrepair. It’s a problem that will only get worse with time, and city officials are smart to start working on a formal policy for preserving or replacing the streets.
Brick streets certainly have their fans in some Lawrence neighborhoods. Some residents like the ambiance and history embodied in the brick paving. The roughness of the streets also can have a calming effect on traffic not unlike speed bumps that have been added to newer streets to slow vehicles.
On the other hand, brick streets are expensive to rebuild, costing more than twice as much as concrete and asphalt. And the deplorable condition some of the streets are in now does nothing for a neighborhood’s ambiance and, in some cases, creates a real safety hazard for both motorists and pedestrians.
The three options for most of the streets is to rebuild the bricks, replace the bricks permanently with another kind of pavement or put an asphalt overlay atop the bricks. The last option would smooth out the street but leave open the possibility that the brick street could be rebuilt at a later date.
City officials are in the process of gathering input from neighborhood residents about the streets, and should be considering a number of questions. Is the charm of the brick streets worth the added expense of replacing them? If so how would that be paid for? Would residents accept a special assessment on their property taxes to help pay for the work? Or are people simply ready to trade the ambiance of their brick streets for some nice new pavement?
As noted at the outset, simply allowing the brick streets to continue to deteriorate shouldn’t be an option. The city needs a policy to guide future decisions on how to maintain the safety and structural integrity of those streets — with bricks or without.