Road project that includes pedestrian tunnels under 19th and Iowa to begin soon

photo by: Nick Krug

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

Story updated at 6:05 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26:

A multimillion-dollar project that includes the construction of two pedestrian tunnels under the intersection of 19th and Iowa streets will begin in coming weeks.

The tunnels are part of a more than $6 million project scheduled to begin in January that will reconstruct a section of 19th Street. Earlier this month, the Lawrence City Commission voted to award the bid for the project to RD Johnson Excavating Company in the amount of $6.03 million, according to a city memo. Engineering for the project cost an additional $205,000 and acquisition of right of way cost about $34,000.

The project will include the reconstruction of 19th Street from Iowa Street to Naismith Drive and the construction of two pedestrian tunnels. The project will also include traffic signals at 19th Street’s intersections with Iowa Street and Stewart Avenue, as well as sidewalk, drainage and utility improvements along the roadway. The pedestrian tunnels will be under the intersection of 19th and Iowa streets, with one tunnel crossing under Iowa Street and the other crossing under 19th Street.

photo by: Contributed photo

Plans show the locations of two pedestrian and bicycle tunnels at the intersection of 19th and Iowa streets. The tunnels, shown in blue, connect to new sidewalks. The red lines represent retaining walls.

The tunnel portions of the project will cost about $2.3 million, and 80 percent of that will be funded by grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT has agreed to fund about $1.9 million of the tunnel project, with the remaining 20 percent funded by the city and the University of Kansas, according to the funding agreement. Specifically, the city and KU will each contribute $200,000 toward the project, with the city’s portion coming out of funding annually allocated for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

The tunnels will connect KU’s West Campus with its new Central District. The tunnels will also 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.

Project Engineer Jonathan Marburger said in an email to the Journal-World that the openings of the tunnels will be on each side of Iowa, south of the intersection, and on each side of 19th Street, east of the intersection.

Marburger said construction of parts of the tunnels, utility work and street paving will require closing 19th Street to traffic at times. He said the number of lanes on Iowa Street will need to be reduced at times, but will remain open to traffic throughout the project.

Some neighbors had safety concerns about the tunnel, which was originally proposed as a single, longer tunnel running diagonally across the intersection. The city later proposed the second design option that calls for two shorter tunnels, one under each of the streets. When the commission voted last year to accept the KDOT grant to fund the tunnel, they requested that the tunnel design maximize daylight and include lighting.

The pedestrian tunnels at the intersection of 19th and Iowa streets will not be the city’s first. Tunnels already run under Louisiana Street near Billy Mills Middle School and Broken Arrow Elementary and under Sixth Street near Pinckney Elementary School. The Lawrence Loop bicycle and pedestrian trail also includes a tunnel under Sixth Street, near the South Lawrence Trafficway on the west edge of the city.

The road reconstruction and tunnel projects will be simultaneous, and the overall project will be broken into two phases. The project is scheduled to begin Jan. 7, with no impacts to the roadway allowed before March 11, according to the memo. The project is scheduled to be substantially complete on Aug. 2.

Previous coverage

Oct. 17, 2017 — Lawrence City Commission approves pedestrian tunnel at 19th and Iowa

June 21, 2017 — City of Lawrence seeking funding to build $1.5 million tunnel under Iowa Street

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