Concerned with rising safety issues stemming from the traffic coming in and out of Laramie High School, the Urban System Advisory Committee is focusing on building and connecting streets around the campus as some of its top priorities.
During its Tuesday meeting, the committee set five priorities, including connecting Pierce Street to Snowy Range Road and Madison Street. The top two priorities are connecting Bill Nye Avenue from 15th Street to Boulder Drive, and later 30th Street, giving more routes to LHS.
“I’m going to state that the high school is the most major reason we’re doing this, to get them safely out of there,” said Bryan Shuster, Laramie City Council member and USAC member, at the meeting. “It’s a rat race.”
The preliminary plans for the Bill Nye expansion are complete, and the grading plans are set to be finished in July. Tim Morton, a construction engineer with the Wyoming Department of Transportation, updated the committee during the meeting that the project is “on schedule” and they hope to start getting public input on the design later this fall.
However, since Bill Nye is being constructed from 15th Street to Boulder Drive all at once instead of in segments, it does have an overmatch requiring an additional $2 million from the city.
At the City Council work session later that day, Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said the city is planning for the adjustment in needed funds.
After the Bill Nye expansion is complete, Alan Frank, director of Albany County’s Geographic Information Systems, thought USAC should consider addressing issues the county felt were important on Blue Bird Road.
“Being that the road is really, extremely, quite narrow, and talking about the race track coming out of the school, that is a serious race track that needs to be addressed,” Frank said during the meeting. “It’s become an extreme safety issue.”
The committee voted to approve Blue Bird Road as the third priority. It replaced a Wyoming Avenue connection to U.S. Highway 130, which was taken off the priority list after City Engineer Eric Jaap said the city was able to pay for the remaining unpaved section of the street using specific purpose tax funds.
Not previously on the list, Shuster put forward the idea to prioritize connecting 45th Street and Grand Avenue to help free up some of the traffic on 30th Street and to gain control on land deemed “a very vulnerable spot” for aquifer protection.
“I’d like to see city in control of that instead of anyone else,” Shuster said. “It’s a road that desperately needs to be built. … 30th [Street] is terrible at certain times of the day and is also a dangerous road.”
The committee voted to approve the 45th Street connection as its fifth priority. However, given the cost to build streets and the rate the Urban Systems Funds replenish, it could be over a decade before it starts.
While the committee approved plans to extend 30th Street to Bill Nye Avenue, it failed to approve including an extension of Spring Creek Drive connecting to 30th Street.
Although he didn’t to put forth a motion to try to make it a priority, Laramie Planning Commission chair Jim McGrath said he thought USAC should consider being more “proactive than reactive” with 15th Street through the next six months. He said there’s room to potentially make it safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and traffic as the University of Wyoming begins the process of completing new dorms in the area.
“Acting proactively will improve Laramie’s bargaining position and reduce the potential of having a solution posed upon us,” McGrath said at the meeting. “We need to recognize that 15th [Street] can be improved on rather than just resist change. I think we should embrace the challenge.”