City leaders approve funding for pedestrian crossings in two residential areas

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 2016, Lawrence resident Lori Norwood makes a quick, rainy-day dash across Tennessee Street between Sixth and Seventh streets. On Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, the Lawrence City Commission approved the creation of a pedestrian crossing for the intersection at Seventh and Tennessee streets.

The City of Lawrence will be adding two new pedestrian crossings for high-traffic streets that run through residential neighborhoods.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to approve an additional $33,800 in funding to cover the project, which came in above estimates, according to a city staff memo to the commission. One crossing will be built at the intersection of Seventh and Tennessee streets and the other at the intersection of 21st and Massachusetts streets. The total cost for both crossings will now be about $279,000.

Old West Lawrence neighborhood residents frequently cross the intersection of Seventh and Tennessee streets to reach Watson Park, the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center and downtown Lawrence, according to letters from residents submitted to the commission. OWL representatives told the commission the neighborhood has been working for years to get a crossing installed because of safety concerns and urged the commission to approve the project.

Engineering Program Manager Amanda Sahin told the Journal-World that the crossing at Seventh Street will use a pedestrian beacon and not a signal that stops traffic. Sahin said the beacon is activated via a push button and has lights that flash rapidly to draw attention to the person crossing. She said the city has a similar beacon at the intersection of 16th Street and Haskell Avenue.

The other street to receive a crossing, 21st Street, intersects with a section of Massachusetts Street that is four lanes wide and where the closest signalized intersections are two blocks in either direction. The crossing also ties into bike and pedestrian infrastructure recently added to 21st Street. Those improvements were originally part of the city’s first bike boulevard, but the commission significantly scaled down the design for that project after it came in over budget, as the Journal-World previously reported.

Sahin said the signal at 21st Street will be similar in function to the signal at South Park, in that it stops vehicles for people to cross when a button is pushed. She said the crossing at 21st Street was identified as a safety improvement for people who walk and bike during the design process for the bicycle boulevard.

The projects were both designed by Alta Planning and Design and were bid together, according to the memo. A letter to Sahin from Alta was included with the agenda materials and states that Alta believes the low bid of approximately $279,000 is reasonable. The extra $33,800 for the crossings will be taken from money previously allocated for sidewalk ramp improvements as well as available dollars in the city’s bicycle and pedestrian improvement fund.

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