City of Lawrence plans to invest $10M over next five years to complete the Lawrence Loop

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

Part of the Lawrence Loop trail near the intersection of 12th and Oregon streets is pictured on Monday, July 16, 2018.

The paved trail known as the Lawrence Loop — which goes past Clinton Lake, the Kansas River, and the wetlands on its route around the city — is nearing completion, with only four segments left to construct.

The city has been adding segments to the loop, which will ultimately provide a continuous 22-mile concrete path around the city, for about 20 years, and only about 3.5 miles remain incomplete. The city has broken the remaining gaps into four segments and one crossing, and funding for all five projects has been included in the city’s five-year plan for capital projects. Though exact routes and funding must still be finalized, advocates for completing the loop are excited to see a plan laid out.

“We are really excited that the city continues to make those investments and to see the development of trails as an important priority,” said Chris Tilden, chair of Friends of Lawrence Area Trails (FLAT).

The city’s 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Plan includes about $10 million in funding for the five projects, with two projects planned for next year. The projects include: Eighth Street to Santa Fe Depot (2023), Michigan Street to Sandra Shaw Park (2023), Iowa Street crossing (2024), Seventh Street to Constant Park (2025), and Queens Road to Kasold Drive (2027). The City Commission approved funding for the two projects planned for 2023 as part of its annual budget process, and the remaining years serve as a planning document for future budgets. The city plans to seek outside grants to help support some of the projects.

photo by: City of Lawrence

A City of Lawrence map of the Lawrence Loop, a paved pedestrian path encircling the city, shows recently completed segments and segments planned for the next five years. The existing path is in green.

Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mark Hecker said he anticipated the first three projects would move fairly quickly. After that, he anticipated the city would begin the more extensive process to plan the Seventh Street to Constant Park segment and the segment from Queens Road to Kasold Drive, which will likely be the final segment completed. He said apart from the approximately one-block segment from Eighth Street to the Santa Fe Depot, which is planned for next year, the exact routes of the remaining segments still need to be finalized and outside grants sought.

Hecker said there are a couple of potential paths for the downtown route to take, including a proposal from the group RiverFront & Center that would take the trail out over the river via a pedestrian bridge. He said the city has used Kansas Department of Transportation grants to help support previous segments of the loop, and additional federal grants may be available for a design for the downtown route that included a pedestrian bridge. He said the city would probably begin discussing the options for that route next year, with the goal of creating a conceptual design and then looking for grant opportunities to help support the project.

Tilden said that filling the gaps between both the western and eastern legs of the loop and downtown was important for connectivity, and that he thought the city was well positioned to receive a federal grant to help support the downtown segment. He said while the city’s bike and pedestrian network is still relatively disconnected, the loop was key in creating a more connected “hub and spoke” system of trails, bikeways and pedestrian paths for both recreation and transportation around and through the city.

“And so the loop is only but one part of that connected system, but one that we feel by being completed really enhances connectivity of what still today is a bit of a disconnected system,” Tilden said.

The most recently completed segment of the Lawrence Loop runs from Peterson Road Park to Michigan Street.

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