Sixth Street change sought near BES
The public got a first glimpse of the Sixth Street reconstruction project at Monday night's Baldwin City Council meeting. Among the changes proposed in the project is a wider intersection at High Street with a left turn lane and a crosswalk on both sides of Sixth Street; sidewalks along each side of Sixth Street, storm drains, curbs and gutters.
However, the preliminary plans drawn by BG Consultants, an engineering firm out of Lawrence, are changeable. Baldwin Elementary School principal Tom Mundinger and Supt. James White were glad to hear that.
Mundinger and White would like to see a better drop off area at BES, and asked if that could be part of the Sixth Street project.
"The congestion on Chapel Street seems to get worse each year," said Mundinger.
The reconstruction of Sixth Street is a shared project between the city and Douglas County, with Baker University chipping in for the sidewalks. Keith Browning, Douglas County engineer, said he wouldn't have a problem changing the project to help the flow of traffic at the school.
"As far as the concept, I don't have a problem with that," Browning said. The county is participating in the project because Sixth Street is part of Douglas County Road 1055.
A few options to relieve the congestion of cars at the school were discussed at the meeting, including designing up to 20 parallel parking spaces where a small half-circle drive currently exists on the west side of Sixth Street. The parking places could serve as a drop off and pick up area during the school day, and as a parking area for the ballfields across the street, where parking was eliminated as part of the project.
Mundinger and White were still concerned about traffic pulling out of the drop off area onto Sixth Street.
"We are still concerned about the traffic flow," White said. "People coming in and out of traffic on Sixth Street will make that a nightmare situation."
Other options discussed included building a tunnel under Sixth Street, and incorporating Baker Street into a drop off area. After discussion, the officials agreed a tunnel would be too expensive, and they also had concerns about safety in and around the tunnel.
City, county and school district officials plan to meet with the architects to further discuss the project in the area of the school.
Other public comment was directed toward the sidewalks. George McCreary questioned the need for sidewalks on both sides. Project engineer David Hamby said it is common for a street that is used by school children and a college to have sidewalks on both sides. Baker University is paying for most of the sidewalk cost, and the sidewalks are designed around existing trees.
"The sidewalks are not straight," said Terry McKinney, city utility director. "We took great measure to not cut down any trees."
Nancy Wilson, who said she is new to town, questioned why the project is being done at all. The street will be reconstructed from U.S. Highway 56 to just south of the High Street intersection.
"It's just in such terrible condition," Browning said.
"We are taking care of a lot of things with this project," McKinney said.
The city and county are each paying for half of the project. David said the project should be ready to bid in the spring and be completed by, of course, the Maple Leaf Festival. Construction will take place in segments.
City Administrator Larry Paine said public input will continue to be considered while the project is in the planning stages. Plans of the project may be viewed at the Public Works office, across the street from the fire station.