Article updated at 5:08 p.m. Wednesday:
The city in January will host an open house to discuss the ongoing traffic project that has placed barriers throughout Old West Lawrence streets, and to gather feedback for permanent installations.
The barriers force turns at some intersections and divert the flow of traffic. The small, temporary barriers currently in place are part of a pilot project. They’re intended to limit cut-through traffic on the streets and slow speeders, but they’ve raised concerns for many residents of the area.
Some residents interviewed in November said the barriers raised different traffic safety concerns, such as confusion and narrower roadways, and added several blocks to their daily drives, for instance.
The project has also caused some contention between neighbors that emerged during the Dec. 7 Lawrence City Commission meeting. (See video below.)
City staff and JEO Consulting Group are in the process of analyzing data collected since the installation of the barriers and comparing it to prior traffic counts, according to a city news release this week.
“Interested residents are invited to come by any time during the event to review the data collection information and discuss with knowledgeable City staff,” according to the release. “The City will have printed feedback forms for all open house attendees to share their feedback.
“Staff and JEO Consulting Group will use that feedback and data to put together a recommendation for permanent installations to present to the Multimodal Transportation Commission, and ultimately, the City Commission,” the release continued.
Another concern some people have raised about the project is whether the barriers slow firetrucks and ambulances en route to emergencies.
“Traffic-calming devices are designed to reduce risk to the community by reducing speed and traffic in certain areas. This is an effective strategy to prevent specific emergencies from occurring,” Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Interim Chief Tom Fagan said via email Wednesday. “However, it’s a balance as these devices slow our response time to those same areas when our services are needed.”
“LDCFM strives to provide the best service possible, including the best response times possible. Since the pilot program started, both Municipal Services and Operations and Fire Medical have worked together to ensure our emergency vehicles can maneuver through and over the calming devices,” Fagan continued.
The city’s release said staff members and the OWL Association have received “a wealth of valuable feedback, both positive and negative” about the devices thus far.
The open house is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25 in the Lawrence Public Library auditorium.