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Study plots routes for missing Lawrence Loop segments; paths would cost millions to build

Lawrence resident MacKenzie Koester approaches 11th Street while running along the Burrough's Trail, Thursday, March 2, 2017. A local work group has started a campaign to fill the gaps in the Lawrence Loop in places where the multiuse path is interrupted. Eleventh and Oregon streets is one of those locations.

Lawrence resident MacKenzie Koester approaches 11th Street while running along the Burrough's Trail, Thursday, March 2, 2017. A local work group has started a campaign to fill the gaps in the Lawrence Loop in places where the multiuse path is interrupted. Eleventh and Oregon streets is one of those locations.

January 2, 2018, 12:00 a.m. Updated January 2, 2018, 1:03 p.m.

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There is a new guidepost — and price tag — in the years-long effort to complete the trail system around Lawrence.

A city-commissioned study and resident survey has identified preferred routes for two missing segments of the Lawrence Loop. Once completed, the routes near downtown and Lawrence Memorial Hospital would close prominent trail gaps in the downtown area and northern Lawrence. The study is estimating it will cost about $2.3 million to build the missing paths.

A draft of the study, completed by BG Consultants, notes that the city has twice unsuccessfully applied for Kansas Department of Transportation grants to help fund loop segments. The city subsequently got feedback that the routes required further examination.

“The need to study alignment alternatives in greater detail to finalize the Loop alignment has become apparent,” the study states.

The LiveWell Lawrence coalition, coordinated by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, has been advocating for completion of the loop. LDCHD Community Health Planner Charlie Bryan said the hope is that the route information will help the city be more successful in obtaining grants. That a resident survey was used in those decisions is also key, he said.

“It was also really helpful to have the community input on where the trail should go,” said Bryan, who is also a member of the city’s Transportation Commission. “That’s information we hadn’t previously had.”

Residents shared their preferences for how the routes should cut through and around town at public meetings and via online surveys over the past several months.

In general, residents favored routes that run along the periphery of the city. As in the past, funding and right-of-way acquisition will be obstacles, and both routes would require coordination with outside entities. One of the routes would connect the Sandra J. Shaw trail near Lawrence Memorial Hospital to Peterson Road. The other would be near downtown, connecting the Burroughs Creek Trail on 11th Street to Constant Park on Sixth Street.

As part of the study, residents picked among several potential routes for both the hospital and downtown segments. The preferred route for the hospital segment runs through a wooded area north of Sandra J. Shaw Community Health Park and then under McDonald Drive near the Kansas Turnpike entrance. For the downtown segment, the preferred route runs largely along the old railway lines, near the banks of the Kansas River just northeast of downtown and under the bridge.

To actually construct the hospital and downtown segments will require approvals and right-of-way from the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the BNSF railway. The draft study states that the city has reached out to both entities, and both are requesting more information from the city.

The study estimates that completing the hospital segment would cost about $1.37 million if an underpass is included. Completing the downtown segment would cost about $930,000. Various state and federal grants have been used to complete segments of the loop over the years, and the study states that the city should look and apply for grant programs that have the ability to fund all or a portion of the proposed improvements.

The Lawrence Loop is about 75 percent complete, and will eventually provide a continuous 22-mile concrete path around the city. Apart from the downtown and hospital segments, the other significant gap is in northwestern Lawrence between Queens Road and Kasold Drive.

The Technical Advisory Committee of the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization will review the draft study at its meeting Tuesday. The study will then be referred to the City Commission for consideration at an upcoming meeting.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated one aspect of the study. Residents did not indicate which route was the priority, only prioritized segments within each route.

Comments

Deborah Phillips 1 month, 2 weeks ago

"...22-mile concrete path..." This is great for cyclists but it's HORRIBLE for runners! An asphalt surface is preferable. I hope to retire in Lawrence some day and I will not run on a concrete trail! But this is just an opinion, and, since I'm not a Lawrence resident yet, it has no weight. I'm just curious about what others think.

Ken Lassman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Seems like if serious running is your goal, Lawrence maintains good crushed gravel trails on the levee along the river. As far as walking alternatives and bicycling, even for commuting, as well as ADA inclusion, it would be hard to beat a multi-purpose satisfying, low maintenance concrete surface for this loop. There are also plenty of dirt trails around Clinton and other places such as the KU Field Station north of town or Douglas County State Lake south of town.

Ken Lassman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

2.3 million sounds like a lot of money, but KDOT spent 150 million completing the 6 mile South Lawrence Trafficway in 2010 dollars, or 25 million/mile. Completing a 22 mile loop for the cost of around one tenth of a mile of the SLT sounds like a pretty good deal. KDOT sure seemed eager to spend that money on the SLT; I hope they see the wisdom of supporting this project, too.

Bonnie Uffman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I am surprised and disappointed to read that the downtown portion of the loop is not listed as the top priority. I also don't remember being asked this question in any of the surveys or study sessions.

Charlie Bryan 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Thanks for pointing this out, Bonnie. It looks like they posted the following correction: "A previous version of this article misstated one aspect of the study. Residents did not indicate which route was the priority, only prioritized segments within each route."

Chris Tilden 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Bonnie, I think that is one inaccuracy in the report. The report does not prioritize one section of the loop over another. I agree with all other comments about the value of this amenity. And to Deborah's point, most runners do prefer alternative surfaces, and there are lots and lots of alternatives in Lawrence for those who want to avoid running on concrete. But the goal of the Loop is to create a trail that connects many destination points around the city that can be used for recreational and more functional purposes. This alignment study is an important step in the process toward creating a better connected "active transportation network" for our community.

Joe Andrew 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I've seen runners make a parallel running trail along to other paved trails in other regions. Just a little extra gravel along the side of the paved trail would be easy

Bob Summers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

As long as "the millions" are someone else's money, I don't care!

Cover the path in gold!

I want to be free to express myselt!!

Love!

Bonnie Uffman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Thanks, Charlie and Chris. That one sentence really took me by surprise. I'm pleased to hear that it is inaccurate.

Calvin Anders 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Looks pretty good to me. When can it be finished? I am a little disappointed in not having a good route around downtown included in the plan, but the part that is included is crucial to being able to ride the whole loop. Let's get this built while we raise our voices to get a downtown plan moving forward. What we have so far is terrific for biking. But it will be incredible once it's goes all the way around the city.

Chris Tilden 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Calvin, completion of the loop is predicated on funding. I am not aware that any current funding is allocated to its completion, although there are some funds in the long-term Capital Improvement Plan. The CIP also includes other "discretionary" funding for bike/ped improvements, and I believe the Transportation Commission is expected to make recommendations on the use of those funds. I hope at least some local funding is allocated to the Loop. There is also a new non-profit organization seeking to raise private funds to help build sections of the trail. Learn more about Friends of Lawrence Area Trails at www.flatks.org. They have set up a fund at the Douglas County Community Foundation for donations. I also agree with you that a loop is valuable only insofar as it creates better linkages to priority destinations like downtown. Completing just a small segment of the loop northward from the current end of the Burroughs Creek Trail at 11th, along with reconstruction of better sidewalks on 9th Street (a planned 2018 Public Works project), could create a far better route into downtown than exists previously for people on foot and riding bikes.

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