Editorial: Street surprise

Those working on plans for East Ninth Street are being forced to regroup after realizing the street’s status as a designated truck route.

It boggles the mind that, after months of planning to create an arts corridor on East Ninth Street, the advisory committee working on those plans is just now talking about issues related to the street’s status as a designated truck route.

The East Ninth Street Citizens Advisory Committee apparently was unaware of the truck route designation until it was raised by community groups offering feedback on the preliminary design, which calls for two 10-foot driving lanes and two 4-foot bicycle lanes. Designated truck routes are required to have driving lanes that are at least 12 feet wide.

At a meeting last week, a representative of the firm working on the new Ninth Street design asked committee members whether they should move the truck route to another street or change the design. The seemingly naive suggestion that the route simply be moved was met by immediate opposition from Mayor Mike Amyx, who indicated, “We’re going to create another whole set of problems if we go moving a truck route.”

Amyx is right. There are businesses that depend on delivery trucks being able to travel on Ninth Street, and no reasonable alternate routes are apparent. What’s amazing is that no one thought to ask this question earlier in the process.

After hearing from Amyx, the designer presented a couple of ideas for reconfiguring the street plan: a landscaped buffer between bike lanes and larger driving lanes with sidewalks on both sides; or larger driving lanes paired with a 10-foot “recreational path” on one side of the street.

Committee members saw potential positives in either revision, but there also are negatives, such as the possibility that some existing trees would have to be removed. The designer agreed to present drawings for both options during the committee’s next meeting on Dec. 16.

The committee should be grateful that community feedback alerted it to the truck route issue before the planning went any further. The challenges this realization poses probably aren’t insurmountable, but the fact that they just now are being discussed may raise concerns about what other “details” have been overlooked in this planning process.

This project has the potential to be a real positive for Lawrence, but only if it is carefully planned and executed.