Without having any agreement with the city of Laramie, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has approved administrators to provide up to $300,000 to the city to install a traffic light at the corner of 22nd Street and Willett Drive, an intersection currently governed by a four-way stop that often results in a lengthy line-up of traffic during morning and evening commutes.
The trustees are hoping the gesture will help appease city staff’s traffic concerns if UW chooses to intermittently close 15th Street, between Ivinson Avenue and Willett Drive, during the construction of new dormitories in coming years.
Earlier this month, City Manager Janine Jordan warned the university the city is unlikely to issue permits “for more than a few days” for a closure of 15th Street, which both police and fire chiefs have urged is a key route for emergency response.
Trustee John McKinley questioned city staff about that assertion at the Sept. 9 meeting of the UW Housing Task Force, a legislative task force charged with overseeing the new dorms construction.
McKinley asked Laramie Police Department Chief of Police Dale Stalder whether the city had prepared information about how frequently 15th Street is used for emergency response.
When Stalder said the city did not, the trustees voted last week, based on McKinley’s request, to have UW administrators make a formal request for “all their raw data on all their emergency responses on the areas bounded by 4th Street to 30th Street, and the north city limits and south city limits” for the last five years.
“Knowing that the demolition of Wyoming Hall will be happening in the spring of 2020, it’s recognized by UW of the importance of having solid objective data regarding emergency responses along those corridors,” McKinley said.
If the city provides that data to UW, McKinley said university staff could “analyze and quantify that data” to help “the city and UW to address emergency responses long-term and during construction.”
A week after that vote had been taken, Jordan told the Laramie Boomerang on Thursday she had not yet received such a request.
“I guess all I can say is that I would hope that the trustees have confidence in city management, including the chief of police and fire/EMS chief, that the city understands its emergency response system and how to operate it,” Jordan said in an email.
The trustees voted Sept. 12 to provide up to $300,000 for the traffic light at Willett and 22nd streets, but Jordan said she also had not been informed of that vote as of Thursday.
That appropriation didn’t go through the trustees’ normal committee process, but McKinley said he had instead, “penciled it out” that same morning as a “mechanism to ease the burden on the city of Laramie.”
“This dovetails with the importance of the university working with the city to try and address (the dorms construction) in a cooperative fashion,” McKinley said. “The city’s budget may not allow them to timely fund a traffic light at Willett and 22nd.”
UW Acting President Neil Theobald supported the measure, noting that the city’s has expressed interest in installing a stop light there and “given the traffic that backs up there every morning and every evening.”
“The city has not indicated an ability to pay for this, and this is a joint issue, but given that we are the primary beneficiary … there’s no expectation of pay-back,” Theobald said.
McKinley assumed a new traffic light would cost $200,000-$300,000, but Jordan said $300,000 is unlikely to cover the cost of the project, given the rapidly rising cost of construction.
“The city’s most recent signalization project at Boulder and Beech streets cost $330,000 three years ago,” she said. “It typically takes 6-12 months for these projects to be designed and poles delivered, with installation thereafter. I informed President Theobald in July that it might be possible to budget the signalization project for 22nd and Willett in FY20-21. However, since that time, City Council approved funding for the signalization project on South 3rd Street in FY20-21. We’ll have to determine if there is sufficient city funding and personnel resources to complete two signalization projects next fiscal year.”