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City considering $3.5 million swap with KDOT on West Sixth Street
With the trade deadline approaching in Major League Baseball, maybe City Manager David Corliss also can moonlight a bit as the general manager of the Kansas City Royals. Corliss is in a deal-making mode.
After months of wheeling and dealing on the public-private partnership for the Rock Chalk Park project, Corliss now is sharing details of a proposed swap he wants commissioners to consider making with the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The gist of the deal is that the city of Lawrence will relieve the state of any financial responsibility to maintain the portion of West Sixth Street between Iowa Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway in northwest Lawrence.
Currently, the state has some maintenance and financial responsibilities on that stretch of street because in addition to being Sixth Street, it also serves as U.S. Highway 40.
Under the proposed deal, the U.S. Highway 40 designation will be dropped, and the state’s maintenance responsibilities will be eliminated. In exchange, the state will provide about $3.5 million in one-time funding for the city to undertake several other street projects in the city.
Is this a good deal? I don’t know. It doesn’t solve the Royals’ need for a power-hitting right fielder, but it does give the city funding to tackle several road-related projects. They include:
• $1.5 million to make turning lane improvements at Sixth and Iowa streets.
• $1 million to help defray the city’s expense to improve the intersection of 23rd and Iowa streets, which is a major rebuilding project scheduled for 2014.
• An approximately $500,000 reduction in the amount of money the city and the county will have to provide to KDOT as part of a new interchange that will be built on the South Lawrence Trafficway where it intersects with Bob Billings Parkway
• $500,000 to help the city install traffic signals at two intersections that likely will need them in the near future. Those are Sixth Street and George Williams Way, which will be the major entrance into Rock Chalk Park; and Sixth Street and Champion Lane, which is an entrance into the Bauer Farm Development in front of Free State High.
Several of these projects the city already had budgeted to complete, so Corliss is proposing that those budgeted dollars be shifted to other projects. Think of it like a player-to-be-named later. It's not a second baseman who can hit, but the projects are significant nonetheless. They include:
• $1.5 million to be used for acquisition and design of a possible new police headquarters building. The $1.5 million would be just the initial funding needed for what has been projected to be about a $20 million project. Commissioners haven’t committed to a timeline for that project, but have expressed some interest in securing a possible site for the facility.
• $325,000 for the city to use as its match on a federal/state grant to restore the Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence.
• $275,000 for a new traffic signal at Bob Billings Parkway and George Williams Way, which will be just east of the new South Lawrence Trafficway and Bob Billings Parkway interchange.
• $400,000 for the city to expand the city’s ring of fiber optic cable around the city.
As for what KDOT will be getting in this deal, it won’t have to participate anymore in projects to repave or rebuild the portion of Sixth Street between Iowa and the SLT. Corliss is estimating that the state pays the city about $40,000 per year for that section of roadway. I haven’t chatted with Corliss about how he’s quantified that number, but it is a little difficult to ascertain just how much the state may spend on that section of road during any given year.
The city is allowed to apply for state grants through its KLINK program, which provides funds to cities for city streets that also serve as state highways. The grants never pay for all of the work to resurface a road, but they do chip in a significant amount. For example, the city this summer will repave the section of Iowa Street, which also is U.S. Highway 59, from 29th Street to the southern city limits. That approximately one-mile stretch of road will cost about $435,000 to repave. The state will provide a $200,000 grant for the work.
Once the state removes the U.S. 40 designation from this four-mile section of Sixth Street, that portion of road won’t be eligible for the KLINK grants in the future.
So this trade, just like a baseball trade, probably will come down to performance: How well will West Sixth Street perform in the future? How much maintenance will it need? City officials believe now is a good time to make the deal because the section of Sixth Street has undergone several improvements in recent years that should limit its maintenance needs in the near future.
Commissioners will discuss the possible agreement with the state at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today.