The fate of 15th Street is in the State Legislature’s hands now that the University of Wyoming has submitted a required report on the street’s possible closure.
The report was finalized after a lengthy preparation process and several public listening sessions, during which members of the UW and Laramie communities voiced almost unanimous disapproval of proposed changes to the stretch of 15th Street running through campus between Ivinson Avenue and Willett Drive.
Delivered by Nov. 1, the report will likely not be discussed until Dec. 7, when UW officials meet with the Joint Appropriations Committee to discuss a number of larger topics, including university funding and the Science Initiative.
It is not clear how the committee will respond to the university’s findings, said Chris Boswell, UW vice president for governmental and community affairs.
“I think people will spend a little time digesting the report, decide whether or not they’re happy with the report and whether they want to see something beyond that report,” he said.
“It’s just a little tough to predict at this point.”
In March, the Legislature used a footnote attached to the university’s budget directing UW to meet with city officials about vacating or modifying the relevant stretch of 15th Street. The footnote cited the need to improve pedestrian safety and unify campus.
The report includes the area’s accident history, resident concerns raised during the listening sessions and a discussion of possible street modifications ranging from complete closure to the construction of an overpass.
Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, is a member of the Joint Appropriations Committee and said the issue of 15th Street would likely be discussed when the committee met with UW officials in December.
“There’s a lot of traffic and a lot of pedestrian traffic over right in that general area, so how (to) limit collisions there, really, is what we’re trying to work on,” he said.
As a former UW student — attending from 1994-1998 — Walters said he saw firsthand the danger posed to pedestrian safety at the busy intersection of 15th Street and Ivinson Avenue.
“I lived in McIntyre Hall my freshman year,” he said. “And every morning, I had to get to the Classroom Building, so I crossed 15th Street multiple times a day throughout my college career. There was always the issue of trying to dodge traffic.”
Walters said the committee would read and consider the university’s report before deciding how to proceed.
“Several years ago when the road around Prexy’s Pasture was closed, people thought, ‘Oh, that’s just terrible,’ and now everyone’s used to it and it works just fine,” Walters said. “So, if 15th Street was closed in the future, I certainly could see some benefits there, I could see some concerns from the folks there in Laramie, but it definitely does unify the campus.”
The Joint Appropriations Committee could request more information, suggest further actions or even drop the issue, killing the discussion of 15th Street for the foreseeable future. It is too early to know how the committee will respond, Boswell said.
“What the legislative footnote has done has caused folks to think about and talk about 15th Street,” he said. “In order for anything to move forward, there’s a lot of additional thought that needs to occur and additional planning and study, and I don’t know whether there’s going to be momentum in that realm on the part of legislators.”