Lawrence City Commission to consider $1.6M grant for pedestrian tunnel under Iowa Street

This file photo from 2013 shows the intersection of 19th and Iowa Streets, near the University of Kansas' West Campus.

The Lawrence City Commission at its meeting Tuesday will consider a plan to fund a $2 million bicycle and pedestrian tunnel under the intersection of 19th and Iowa streets.

The city has been awarded a $1.6 million state transportation grant to pay for 80 percent the project’s cost, and the remaining $400,000 will be split between the city and the University of Kansas. The university will also donate the required right-of-way for the project.

City Engineer Dave Cronin said an underpass for pedestrian and bicyclists would enhance the safety for those crossing Iowa Street at its intersection with 19th Street.

“This provides an opportunity for safety,” Cronin said. “Iowa is the most heavily traveled street in Lawrence; it has the highest average daily traffic volume and it’s a state highway.”

The tunnel will connect the city’s shared-use path on the west side of Iowa Street with the shared-use path that will soon be added to the north side of 19th Street. When the city discussed the tunnel in June, the conceptual plan was for one tunnel to run diagonally under the intersection. At this point, Cronin said the city is looking at having two shorter tunnels.

“It would actually be a shorter crossing and provide better lighting to have one that crosses on the east leg of the intersection and one that crosses on south leg,” Cronin said.

Cronin said lighting and other issues would be considered as part of the design, and that if the city proceeds with the project it would be important to get community input.

“We are still looking at design options and all those details would be determined later once we got into design,” Cronin said.

The city plans to reconstruct 19th Street from Iowa Street to Naismith Drive in the summer of 2018, and Cronin said that, if approved, the tunnel construction would begin at that time. There isn’t an estimate at this time for when the tunnel would be complete, he said.

As part of its consent agenda Tuesday, the commission will decide whether to accept the $1.6 million Kansas Department of Transportation grant to help build the tunnel. The commission will also decide whether to accept a $400,000 grant for a Safe Routes to School project, which would call for a $100,000 contribution from the city.

City staff is recommending the commission accept the state grant for both projects and use budgeted 2017 pedestrian/bicycle funds as the local match.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.