The Laramie City Council and University of Wyoming staff hit the pavement Tuesday to review possible options for increasing pedestrian safety on 15th Street and unifying the UW campus.
In response to a footnote in the state’s supplemental budget requesting UW staff ask the city of Laramie to consider the possibility of closing 15th Street to traffic from Willett Drive and Ivinson Avenue, city staff presented the council with a few options addressing the Legislature’s concerns during a council work session Tuesday.
“This isn’t a new topic,” Laramie Planning Division Planning Director Derek Teini said.
Going back to the 1960s, Teini said several agencies including the city and UW discussed traffic concerns on 15th Street at several junctures. Some of the previous suggestions include restricting right turns at red lights, audio cues, reduced speed limits and closing the street altogether.
“Some of those things have actually been put into place,” he said.
To address the most recent request, Teini said city staff compiled six options that could address the legislators concerns to varying degrees.
— Close 15th Street completely between Willett Drive and Ivinson Avenue
— Partially close 15th Street between Willett Drive and Fraternity Row
— Partially close 15th Street between Willett Drive and Ivinson Avenue
— Build an overpass
— Build an underpass
— Modify a previous design concept dubbed “The Ivinson Plan for 15th Street,” which focuses on installing improvements such as raised crosswalks and landscaping to slow traffic.
With the options that deal with closures, Teini said commuter times would increase, underground utilities would be affected and parking access to UW facilities would need to be reworked.
“You’re going to need to see traffic rerouted,” he said. “Emergency services — fire, ambulance and police — they would all be affected by this.”
The overpass option would allow traffic to continue using the thoroughfare, but underground and above-ground utilities would be affected and the structure would require a large amount of sidewalk space.
“The overpass concept is really a thought about how we can transfer students safely from one side of the street to the other,” Teini said.
Walls or fencing would need to be constructed to ensure pedestrians use the overpass, which would increase crossing time and require Americans with Disabilities Act enhancements so everyone could use the route, he said.
A similar setup would be needed for the underpass concept, he added.
“We have high-water table issues, and we have extensive underground utilities that would be affected,” Teini said.
Pedestrian commute times would also be reduced with the underpass concept and the project would require a similar amount of space as the overpass.
The Ivinson plan combined cycle tracks, slower speed limits and a raised pedestrian table to increase foot traffic safety.
“This plan could include using a chicane or curve on the road to slow traffic,” Teini said. “There would be less impact on emergency services traffic.”
Out on the beat, the council crossed 15th Street to get a feel for the problems pedestrians face and discussed the impetus for the request.
“If you were trying to find a reason why a legislator would put a footnote in the budget, this would be one of the reasons,” UW Vice President of Government and Community Affairs Chris Boswell said standing at the intersection of 15th Street and Fraternity Row. “There’s no crosswalks, and somebody would have to either walk up to Willett (Drive) or down to Ivinson (Avenue) to cross.”
Teini pointed out the steady trickle of pedestrian traffic and constant vehicle traffic.
“It’s 7 (p.m.), and we still have a sizeable amount of traffic here,” Teini said.
After walking the street, the council and UW staff met in the UW College of Business for further discussion.
“These are rational folks that put this in the budget,” Boswell said. “I don’t think anybody expects a five-option report that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put together. I think they’ve asked that reasonable people give this a serious thought and present some dollar figures.”
Teini said none of the options currently have cost estimates.
Boswell said UW has received no direction about how to fund the Legislature’s request.
If money weren’t a concern, Councilor Bryan Shuster said he would prefer to see an underpass built.
“I really feel that since a checkbook is going to be a factor, I think we are going to have to go with option six (the Ivinson plan).”
Councilor Vicki Henry said she would also like to see an underpass installed.
“With a closure, our traffic is going to have to go somewhere else,” Councilor Dave Paulekas said. “What’s that going to look like in 20 years?”
Councilor Pat Gabriel said working on campus granted him some insight to the legislator’s concerns, but he wasn’t sure how best to address the problem.
“I’m in this area five days a week, so I see it all the time,” Gabriel said. “Something needs to be done. But unless someone gives us a whole lot of money, I don’t see it happening.”