Lawrence City Commission approves narrower street design for East 19th Street project

photo by: City of Lawrence

East 19th Street near the Lawrence Humane Society, at right, and the Douglas County Fairgrounds, at left, is pictured in this undated photo from a City of Lawrence presentation about a redesign of the street.

Following concerns from neighbors, city leaders have voted to approve a narrower design for the reconstruction of a portion of East 19th Street.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Courtney Shipley opposed, to approve a design concept that includes a 27-foot-wide roadway for the reconstruction and extension of 19th Street, from Harper Street to O’Connell Road. The extension will connect the street to VenturePark and East Hills Business Park.

City staff brought several options to the commission for consideration, and had recommended an option that included a 31-foot-wide street. City Engineer Dave Cronin told the commission that the reasoning behind the recommendation was to keep the width of collector streets standard throughout the city and to ensure city fire trucks have enough room to maneuver. That portion of 19th Street is currently 22 feet wide, and neighbors are concerned widening it would increase speeds on the street, which runs through a residential neighborhood.

Vice Mayor Brad Finkeldei said that while he appreciated staff’s desire for consistency, he thought that smaller streets would generally cost less to maintain, and he said he would be interested in evaluating smaller streets across the city going forward. Finkeldei also said it was important for the commission to consider context when making decisions.

“I think different facts require different circumstances,” Finkeldei said.

Finkeldei also noted that the Multi-modal Transportation Commission had recommended a 27-foot-wide street. Other commissioners agreed, with Commissioner Lisa Larsen saying that one size may not fit all. Larsen added that she thought street designs should have more emphasis on walkability, pedestrian safety and biking.

Ultimately, the commission voted for the 27-foot-wide street and directed city staff to prohibit parking to allow more room for emergency vehicles. Shipley was in favor of an even narrower street, namely one that was 22 feet wide. The commission also voted for a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the south side of the street and a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the north side, design elements that city staff and the MMTC also recommended.

The city has budgeted approximately $3.3 million to rebuild the half-mile segment of the road and has been discussing the design since 2018. Cronin told the commission that once the design process begins, the city will bring more detailed plans to the commission.

City Commission Meeting 07/07/20


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