Residents question 1055 project’s cost, scope
Bill Harmon was one of several Baldwin City residents who attended Monday’s Baldwin City Council meeting to express his concerns about the North Sixth Street project.
Like the other attendees Harmon, who lives north of Baldwin City, would be affected with the slated start of the project next year. The driveway to Harmon’s house is just south of Douglas County Road 12 along Douglas County Road 1055.
Although he cited the location of his driveway as a potential problem if County Road 1055 is closed for months, Harmon has other concerns about the project.
“What’s going to happen to those businesses along that road?” Harmon asked the city council. “If that road is closed for nine months or a year, it will be severe hardships or even put some out of business.”
Harmon spoke the city council during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. He was one of four speakers and nearly a dozen local residents who attended the meeting. He had other concerns about the project.
“The other issue is the $3 million price tag,” Harmon said. “As a county and city taxpayer, I wonder if that’s where our money could best be spent. I think we have more immediate needs in the city, such as sidewalks to the schools.
“I do see that we need a sidewalk on the east side for the whole distance. I don’t need the need for a sidewalk on the west side north of the hardware store. I think a 10-foot sidewalk on the east side would be more efficient than an 5-foot sidewalk on each side of the road.”
In response, Mayor Ken Wagner said the project has been planned for some time.
“I think the county put this in their capital improvement project fund in 2008, but I might be wrong on that date,” the mayor said. “We’ve known about this for several years.”
The project is a partnership between Douglas County and Baldwin City. It will improve 1055 south of U.S. Highway 56 near Kwik Shop until it intersects with County Road 12.
Curbs and guttering will be added to both sides of the road, along with a third turn-lane. Sidewalks will be added on both sides of the road. The estimated cost for the project is $3.4 million, which will be split between the county and city.
“Traffic counts were involved in the plan,” Terese Gorman, Douglas County Public Works engineering division manager, said Tuesday. “It’s a matter of partnering with the city of Baldwin. The road has transitioned from a county route to a city street as it enters Baldwin. At some point, the county route configuration of the road isn’t acceptable in a city situation. We’ve projected that issue or concern a number of years ago and Baldwin was on board with that, because obviously Baldwin is growing and the roads need to accommodate that future growth.”
Baldwin City residents voicing concern Mondays had several complaints about the project, but the biggest was the added turn lane.
“The main thing I want to talk about is we are overlooking the problem,” said Bob Pringle, who owns Napa Auto Parts, which is located on 1055.. “Why are we going to make that road three lanes? Why? For what reason? Nobody has ever told me that.”
Paul Dennis with Parkside Landhome Owners Association expressed his concerns, too. Parkside has built home along 1055 north of the FireTree Estates entrance.
“I think we need to step back right now,” Dennis said. “I brought pictures of the entrances into town and if you look at the south entrance on 1055, which was redone a couple of years ago, you’ll see it’s adequate and it’s two lanes. Our general consensus is the road is in fine condition and doesn’t need a third lane. If anything has to be done, a sidewalk on the east side of the road is palatable. That may be a good use of our money if we are going to do anything.”
On Tuesday, Gorman explained the reasoning for adding a third lane on the road that connects Baldwin City and Lawrence.
“The third lane is warranted because of the traffic volumes and the capacity of the road,” Gorman said. “The intersections on the road, for example Quayle Street, which services the high school and junior high school, and the turning movements of those intersections. The traffic on the road grows as Baldwin grows and the turning movements will decrease the functionality and the capacity of the road. It’s also a safety concern. Moving the left-turners to a through-lane of traffic allows the through traffic to continue and the left-turner to sit as long as they need to make their turn.”
The city council is planning a committee meeting with DGPW officials to discuss the project. Wagner and the council hope to have questions answered at the meeting. The public is welcome to attend. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.