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Big changes coming to Airport and North Lamar with reallocation of 2016 bond funds

Friday, March 12, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

Complete makeovers to two prominent streets have moved up the city’s to-do list.

North Lamar Boulevard between U.S. Highway 183 and Rundberg Lane and Airport Boulevard between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and U.S. 183 are slated for reconstruction by 2024 – earlier than expected – through a $65 million reallocation of 2016 mobility bond funds originally meant for Riverside Drive improvements.

Project Connect will now fund the Riverside work, which will involve overhauling the corridor all at once to provide better pedestrian and bike facilities and accommodate the Blue Line.

Mike Trimble, director of the Corridor Program Office, briefed the Mobility Committee Thursday on the changes. “It really is a win-win between Project Connect and what they’re doing on the Blue Line and now what we’re able to return to our program,” he said.

When the Riverside funds were freed up, Trimble said, “we just went to the next projects in the list.” Projects are prioritized using a scoring system City Council adopted in 2018.

Final designs for Airport and Lamar are not yet complete, but the segments are expected to get the full Corridor Program treatment, which includes:

  • Realignment and modification of vehicle lanes
  • Enhanced bike and pedestrian facilities
  • Pedestrian safety upgrades like pedestrian hybrid beacons and shorter, more visible crosswalks
  • Streetscape improvements such as landscaped medians, street trees and lighting 
  • New bus stops and other transit improvements 

The cost remains uncertain, with each project estimated to cost from $25 million-$45 million. “We’re going to get our consultant teams that are under contract to finish out design, and we’ll get better numbers on that,” Trimble said.

Trimble cautioned that if costs end up being more than expected, the timelines may change: “Our intent is to move forward to full construction. But we’ll have to see what the numbers come back like.”

The improvements aim to support future Project Connect work. The North Lamar project, Trimble said, will lay the groundwork for easy bus, bike and pedestrian access to the Orange Line’s northern terminus at the North Lamar Transit Center.

Riverside users can also expect interim improvements before Project Connect work begins, including transit priority lanes and safety-minded fixes. 

Though only some stretches of North Lamar and Airport will be completely rebuilt as part of the program, the rest of each corridor will see other, less drastic improvements. New crosswalks at several North Lamar intersections have already been built, and more throughout both corridors are planned. Other intersection improvements, shared-use paths and pedestrian hybrid beacons are planned.

City Council will vote on moving these corridor projects and others into final design, and on increasing staff for the program, on March 25.

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