The City of Lawrence has drafted potential routes through downtown, East Lawrence and northern Lawrence that would close two prominent gaps in the citywide trail system.
The Lawrence Loop trail is now more than 75 percent complete, and on Tuesday the city released potential routes for two gaps in the trail that will navigate railroad tracks, the Kansas River and some of the city’s densest neighborhoods.
Senior Transportation Planner Jessica Mortinger said multiple options are provided on the route maps because the city is still open to exactly how the endpoints of each segment, which are marked on the route maps with stars, will be connected.
“The intention is to come up with what is the one proposed alignment we want to run for this to complete the loop between these two stars,” Mortinger said.
The downtown leg of the trail will connect the Burroughs Creek Trail on 11th Street to Constant Park on Sixth Street. Included in the possible routes is a path running along the north side of the Riverfront Plaza and directly along either the Kansas River or Sixth Street. For another portion of this leg, one path option runs through Hobbs Park while another runs along the eastern edge of the Warehouse Arts District.
The northern Lawrence leg will connect the trail at Sandra J. Shaw Community Health Park on Maine Street to Peterson Road. Options for the northern leg include a portion that runs through a small wooded area near the park and one that follows North Michigan Street.
Mortinger said now that potential routes are identified, the city will consider factors such as street crossings, conflicts with driveways and the need to acquire property or right-of-way.
“There are things to consider like that that will impact the costs,” Mortinger said. “And that will be one of the things that we weigh into a final alignment.”
Closing both gaps will require major street crossings, and Mortinger said that includes crossings where pedestrian tunnels or bridges will be necessary. For the downtown route, she said the path could either go under or over the Kansas River bridge. For the northern route, the path could go under or over McDonald Drive.
Another key factor, the acquisition of property or right-of-way, will also require further consideration. Mortinger said the city has not closely studied that element thus far, but that it will be considered as the routes are determined. Community preferences, such as whether the trail should provide access to the Kansas River, will also be discussed.
The proposed routes are part of an alignment study commissioned by the city and were drafted following a review of community feedback collected earlier this summer. The city will be holding an open house Sept. 18 to gather input on the proposed routes, and Mortinger said an online survey will also be released.
Once it is complete, the Lawrence Loop will provide a continuous 22-mile trail around the city limits and have various connector trails linking it to neighborhoods. The city has been adding sections steadily to the trail since the first section was completed nearly 20 years ago. In addition to the downtown and northern Lawrence gaps, there is a gap in the trail in northwestern Lawrence.
The final proposal for the route will be reviewed by the city's Transportation Commission and the City Commission, which will provide the final approval. Mortinger said determining routes for the Lawrence Loop will help the city as it applies for grants to fund the loop’s completion.
The open house to collect public input on the potential routes will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.