East Ninth Project committee discusses truck route, possible ‘recreational path’

The East Ninth Street Citizens Advisory Committee talked about different options Wednesday for how East Ninth Street, the proposed arts corridor, could be reconfigured.

When getting feedback from community groups on a conceptual design, it was brought up that East Ninth Street is designated as a truck delivery route, said Josh Shelton with el dorado inc., which is contracted with the city for the East Ninth Project design.

Shelton asked the advisory committee whether they should move the truck route to another street or if the current design should be changed to allow for East Ninth Street to remain a truck route.

After Mayor Mike Amyx voiced opposition to changing the route, the discussion turned to change the current plan.

“We’re going to create another whole set of problems if we go moving a truck route,” said Amyx, who serves on the committee. “I don’t think it’s a battle we need to do; I don’t think it’s smart. We do have businesses along Ninth Street that rely on trucks. I think moving it would be wrong.”

Streets designated as truck delivery routes are required to have driving lanes at least 12 feet wide, Shelton said.

The current project design calls for two 10-foot driving lanes and two 4-foot bicycle lanes.

Shelton presented two ideas for reconfiguring the street: adding a landscaped buffer between bike lanes and larger driving lanes, with sidewalks on both sides, or having larger driving lanes and introducing a 10-foot “recreational path” on one side of the street.

Members of the 15-person committee cited positives about each option.

Emily Peterson, co-owner of Merchants Pub & Plate, said the recreational path would be “a natural extension” of the Burroughs Creek Trail, which runs along a former railroad route from 23rd to 11th streets.

“I think if it’s done well it will make it feel integrated and organic,” Peterson said. “It would open up so much incredible activity.”

Shelton said he wasn’t leaning toward one option over the other, but the recreational path was “really a different approach” than the project’s current concept plan.

He also said some existing trees would have to come down for the construction of a wide recreational path.

“We’d have to do work so it doesn’t feel like it landed from outer space onto the street,” Shelton said of the path. “I have truly mixed feelings about it.”

The other approach, he said, would allow the design team to keep much of the original plan, which includes green space in the public right-of-way to be used for social gathering.

“It’s a similar strategy,” Shelton said. “We could still pull off really interesting and subtle landscaping and still create the right kinds of places to meet and talk with one another. A lot of that could rollover into this.”

The committee did not take formal action Wednesday.

Shelton will present drawings for both options during the committee’s next meeting, on Dec. 16, and members will either take a vote or just provide feedback.

The committee decided not to hold a meeting in November because of a delay in getting feedback from the Lawrence City Commission. The commission talked about the project earlier this month, after the appointment of new commissioner Lisa Larsen.

Shelton said next week he would provide an updated timeline of the project’s design process.