An ongoing conversation between city of Laramie officials, University of Wyoming administrators and state legislators about the possible closure of a stretch of 15th Street is being opened to the public this week.
The city and ASUW, the university’s student government, plan to jointly host four listening sessions, both on and off campus, to receive public input on the potential project.
“They are on four different days this week, at different times, to try to get the biggest cross-section of the community,” Mayor Andi Summerville said. “It’s really important that we hear from the long-term residents that have nothing to do with UW (and) the faculty, staff, students. We really need to hear from everybody because everybody uses that street.”
In March, the State Legislature directed UW — in a footnote attached to the university’s budget — to meet with city officials about the need for “vacating” 15th Street between Ivinson Avenue and Willett Drive to improve pedestrian safety and unify campus.
Summerville said city and UW staff brainstormed possible answers to these concerns, which left the door open for more options than total closure.
“They initially came up with several options,” the mayor said. “One, of course, is do nothing with the street; leave it as it is. We could potentially close the entire thing where it runs through campus. We could do an underpass. We could do an overpass. We could do partial closure. Somebody brought the idea forward last week of a timed gate closure.”
The first of these listening sessions takes place today during the city council’s regular meeting in City Hall.
Though the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., Summerville said the council would address two to three other items before beginning the 15th Street discussion, so those planning to attend do not have to show up exactly at the start.
Other listening sessions will take place at noon Wednesday in room 186 in the UW College of Law, 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Wyoming Union Senate Chambers and 11 a.m. Saturday at the Laramie Community Recreation Center.
ASUW President Ben Wetzel said he has heard a wide range of opinions from students so far and is uncertain what will come out of the listening sessions.
“The conversations I have heard have revolved around safety, traffic patterns, emergency vehicle access, utility access and unification of campus,” he said. “I know there (are) lots of opinions, and I am just looking forward to hearing from any constituent about the potential remodels.”
Wetzel said ASUW will also accept online and written comments for those unable to attend. The city is also accepting comments in other formats.
“They don’t have to come to one of these public meetings,” Summerville said. “They can always email us or call us or leave comments for the city manager’s office or the city clerk’s office. We’re going to try to gather comments in as many different ways as we can.”
The legislative footnote requires UW to submit a report to the Wyoming Legislature by Nov. 1. Before then, the comments stemming from these listening sessions will be distributed to members of the relevant governing organizations, Wetzel said.
“Once it is compiled, we will share it with all of the representatives from ASUW, the University of Wyoming, the city of Laramie, and members of the State of Wyoming in order to ensure that our conversations are revolving around the same information and concerns,” he said.
Summerville said she hopes the comments will be included in the November report, so legislators can understand the general feel of the Laramie community.
“It’s my request that those comments be incorporated,” she said. “I think that the community comments are a very important piece the Legislature needs to look at.”