Arkansas City Commissioners delayed a decision on whether to add a center turn lane to a portion of North of Summit Street, and put off applying for the grant to pay for such a project.

At a special meeting Wednesday, commissioners also said they wanted to examine the options for Summit Street in more detail.

The commission met to review proposals from TranSystems to change north Summit Street from Kansas Avenue to Radio Lane to either a three or five-lane roadway.

The application deadline with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is Friday. That won’t be made. City Manager Nick Hernandez said the next opportunity to apply for a funding match would be in March, but funds may not be available at that time.

Cost estimates for the conversion to five lanes would total more than $6.3 million, leaving the city responsible for $3.2 million under a 50/50 match. Hernandez said the total for the three-lane option would be approximately $5.2 million, and the city’s share would be $2.6 million.

The other option would be to do a mill and overlay with no sidewalks, no curb and gutter repair, from Kansas Avenue to Radio Lane at a cost of more than $1 million dollars, all at the city’s expense.

After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the options, commissioners agreed that the three-lane option with a northbound lane, southbound lane, center turn lane and sidewalks on both sides would be the best plan. But the commissioners were not ready to commit without further research.

Commissioner Jim Sybrant said he hadn’t had sufficient time to review the proposals and suggested several other options, including lowering the speed limit to 20 mph from Radio Lane to Kansas Avenue.

He also suggested that the city implement an idea made earlier by Mayor Jay Warren and simply re-stripe the roadways three-lanes as a test before taking any permanent action.

Sybrant made a motion to have the traffic safety committee look into the cost of lowering the speed limit, repainting the street as three lanes, implementing a school speed limit from 15th Street to Kansas Avenue to match school hours, and present a recommendation to the board at the Nov. 5 meeting.  

“We’ve got the youngest, least experienced drivers, getting out of school and making a race for McDonalds, I want to slow them down” he said. “When you slow speeds down, it saves lives and stops damage.”

Commissioner Duane Oestmann said changing the speed limit on 15th Street was uncalled for and unnecessary. The change would only make a lot of people upset because they would not realize that the speed was only 20 mph, unless flashing lights were placed down the entire roadway.

“The signs aren’t going to make any difference because they don’t pay attention to them anyway,” Oestmann said.

But Sybrant’s motion prevailed in a 3-2 vote.

Hernandez said if the three-lane plan with sidewalks on both sides were implemented, it would reduce the total road width in that corridor by 11 feet.

“We don’t have the right-or-way on both sides,” he said. “You would have to reduce it to put in the sidewalks, and that’s detrimental point.”

Commission candidate Travis Pearman challenged the need and effectiveness of either plan. He doesn’t think Summit Street has a traffic problem.

Pearman said that according to a report cited by Hernandez, from Jan. 2014 to April 2017 a total of 60 accidents had occurred along the route in question, none of them fatalities.

“That’s an average of 18 accidents per year, “ he said, adding that the improvements would equal about $330,000 per accident prevented, but wouldn’t bring the accidents to zero.

Pearman also said that the spacing of the entryways into businesses along that section decrease the effectiveness of the three-lane proposal. He said the area has a higher number of driveways per mile than recommended for optimum performance.

“We’re not a prime case study for the implementation of a three-lane roadway in the Summit corridor,” he said.

Sybrant agreed and said the three-lane format works well in a commercial area where there is not a lot of turn-ins and turnouts. The Summit Street corridor, he said, has a driveway about every 75 feet and that’s where most accidents take place.

Commission candidate Scott Rogers said he had not studied all the informant but favors adding sidewalks for safety.

“There are a ton of people who walk up and down that area,” Rogers said. “Eventually a decision is going to have to be made on Summit Street.”

Hernandez said Summit Street from Kansas Avenue to Radio Lane was never designed to be a major arterial corridor.

“No one back in the dark ages ever thought Summit would extend past Kansas Avenue,” he said. “They’ve offset it, and the right-of-way is very narrow.”

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