City OKs 9th Street deal, but…

By Burk Krohe

Commissioners unanimously approved first readings to vacate a portion of 9th Street right-of-way and to reduce the speed limit on Moro Street at Tuesday’s meeting.

However, it quickly became evident that some details will need to be hammered out before the second reading of the 9th Street right-of-way agreement.

Recently, commissioners approved a land-sale agreement with Howie’s Recycling and Trash Service in order for the firm to expand its business. It was proposed that part of 9th Street, between Fair Lane and Riley Lane, be vacated to facilitate the expansion. Howie’s current facility is located at 625 S. 10th Street, adjacent to the 9th Street right-of-way.

Rob Ott, city engineer, noted that 9th Street doesn’t physically connect to Fort Riley Boulevard and doesn’t cross Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the south. An ordinance has been prepared that would vacate the requested portion of the right-of-way.

Bart Thomas’ firm, Thomas Outdoor Advertising, purchased the property at 902 Fair Lane, just north of Howie’s current facility. Thomas said the closing off the requested portion of 9th Street “would be horrendously detrimental to us. It’s the only way we’re going to get access into our property,” he said.

Because of a fence along Howie’s property to the south, the Thomas firm’s crane truck currently needs to back up and maneuver in the area that would be vacated in order to enter a gate at 9th Street and Fair Lane.

“I find it very difficult to make a decision without a full evaluation,” Commissioner John Matta said.

Commissioners agreed to pass the first reading, but instructed Ott to work with Thomas and Howie’s to facilitate a solution before a second reading.

Commissioners also passed the first reading of an ordinance to reduce the speed limit on Moro Street to 20 mph. Reducing the speed limit is the first step to creating a “bike boulevard,” a shared roadway that can be used by cars and bikes, on Moro Street.

Peter Clark, city civil engineer and staff liaison to the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, said Moro was an ideal street to turn into a bike boulevard. It’s already a low traffic street with traffic calming devices such as a traffic circle.

Clark said the goal of the bike boulevard is to improve “bikeability” and connectivity in the city without spending a lot of money. The goal is to create a network of bike boulevards on a grid throughout the city.

He told commissioners to think of Moro Street as a pilot project. Eventually, other features such as pavement markings indicating a bike boulevard, street signs indicating a bike boulevard and wayfinding signs will be added to Moro Street.

“I don’t have a problem with the speed because I don’t think anyone drives faster than that anyway,” Matta said.

Commissioners said it will be important to track the progress on Moro Street. Matta said if it’s really successful, the increase of bikers on the road might cause unforeseen consequences. 

“I think the big thing is to really watch to see what happens,” Matta said.

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