Public asked to ‘reimagine’ East 23rd Street ahead of redesign of roadway

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

East 23rd Street, at its intersection with Haskell Avenue, is pictured Thursday, June 6, 2019.

Ahead of the redesign of East 23rd Street, local transportation planners are asking residents what changes and improvements they want to see for the roadway.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization is working with a consultant to conduct a study and create a new transportation plan for East 23rd Street now that it is no longer a state highway. The study will inform the upcoming redesign and reconstruction of East 23rd Street, from the Haskell bridge to the eastern city limits.

The study will consider roadway design, safety, aesthetics, transit stops and bicycle and pedestrian amenities, and it will allow the public to help “reimagine the street,” according to the study website. Transportation Planning Manager Jessica Mortinger said a new concept for the street is needed due to reductions in traffic following completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway and redevelopment near the roadway, including new residential neighborhoods, hotels and business parks.

“So those are the types of things we’re going to be looking at because that changes how a road needs to function now that it’s no longer a state highway,” Mortinger said. “But it’s still a primary east-west connection and it has important connections to VenturePark and East Hills Business Park.”

The $100,000 study to develop the East 23rd Street Multimodal Corridor Plan is funded by an $80,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation and a $20,000 contribution from the city. The plan will go through various reviews before going to the City Commission for consideration.

The city has budgeted $9.75 million for the East 23rd Street reconstruction project, which includes $4 million of anticipated funding from KDOT. The design of the roadway will begin in 2020, and $500,000 for the project is included in the city’s draft capital improvement plan for next year. The project is scheduled to begin in 2021 and be completed the following year.

An online survey is available on the Lawrence Listens website until midnight on June 13, and other meetings are planned for later in the month. The survey asks residents what their priorities are for East 23rd Street and what changes would improve the street. Potential priorities include safety, traffic flow, appearance, and pedestrian and bicycle access. Potential improvements include a lower speed limit; fewer driveways or left-hand turns; landscaping and street trees; buffers between sidewalks and the roadway; and buffered bicycle lanes, among others.

Later this month, there will also be two public meetings. A “visioning session” where attendees can discuss key issues with the roadway will take place from 8 a.m. to noon June 25 in the Flory Meeting Hall at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St. An open house where attendees can view and comment on initial concepts will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. June 26 in the same location.

Once the East 23rd Street Multimodal Corridor Plan is drafted, it will be presented to the MPO Technical Advisory Committee, MPO Policy Board and the Transportation Commission. Following those reviews, it will go to the Lawrence City Commission for consideration.


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