Changes coming to 12th street

Chad Frey
The city is able to move forward with crosswalks at Boyd and 12th street under the current city budget.

Some immediate change is coming to 12th street to better facilitate pedestrian traffic to and from Newton High School.

Following complaints from several parents and staff observance of increased pedestrians along 12th Street heading to school, city staff submitted a request to the Kansas Dept. of Transportation for Transportation Engineering Assistance Program (TEAP) funds to hire a consultant to perform a traffic engineering study on the 12th Street corridor from Boyd to Anderson.

The results of that study were brought to the commission Tuesday, along with some options for what could be done to 12th Street between Anderson and Boyd.

Recommendations ranged from new crosswalks to a “road diet” that would put bike lanes on 12th street in agreeance with a bicycle master plan created in 2015.

Director of Public Works Suzanne Loomis told the commission the city can move forward with some new crosswalks and school speed zones immediately with existing city funds.

“We can implement a crosswalk at (12th and Boyd) right now within our operating budget,“ Loomis said.

Loomis said the city could also place crosswalks at 12th and Anderson — and establish a school speed zone from Anderson to Boyd. The cost of the speed zone project is estimated at about $26,000.

The intent would be to add flashing lights to school zone signage that would activate the school zone when flashing.

The commission approved that plan, but did not commit to the road diet plan. A full road diet plan could cost as much as $71,000.

The city could apply for grants to fund the remainder of the improvements to include a road diet — moving to three vehicle lanes with two bicycle lanes.

That plan would also create a “pedestrian refuge” mid block, adding an additional crosswalk to 12th street.

Loomis asked the commission to consider construction of a fence at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church to force pedestrians to 12th and Boyd.

Members of the commission, and members of the public, expressed concern with moving from four lanes to a two-lane street with center turning lane — citing traffic backups that can occur during big events at the school.

The consensus of the commission Tuesday was to move forward with new cross walks and a speed zone, and then reevaluate the street about a year from now.

In other business the commission:

• Hosted a public hearing concerning special assessments for a completed improvement project. No one spoke. The commission passed an ordinance establishing the special assessments for Autumn Glen 4th Addition (Sewer District No. 34-D) sanitary sewer improvements and Rolling Hills Sixth Addition grading, paving, sanitary sewer and water distribution system improvements.

• Approved moving forward with a mural project in the Railroad Park by the Old Mill. Project organizers will need to get approval from BNSF before finalizing the project.

• Approved contractual agreements to move forward with a cost sharing program with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the extension of Wheatridge Drive and purchasing right-of-ways for the project.

• Received an update on a wastewater agreement with North Newton.

• Received an update on the library construction project.