By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Construction is scheduled to begin Monday (April 1) on a highway improvement project adjacent to the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation is reconfiguring U.S. Highway 30 from Sixth to 13th avenues, along the south edge of the UNK campus, to make the road safer and easier to navigate.
The $2 million project, awarded to Paulsen Inc. of Cozad, includes a redesign of the Y-shaped Ninth Avenue intersection on the east edge of campus that will prevent southbound vehicles from turning left onto eastbound Highway 30. Plans also call for the addition of turn lanes near two intersections, closure of some median openings and relocation of the pedestrian crossing signal, which will move a half-block west.
This work will reduce traffic to two lanes at times and temporarily close left-turn lanes.
Pedestrians are encouraged to cross Highway 30 at the 12th Avenue signal, which will remain in its current location through the spring semester.
The project is scheduled for completion in mid- to late August, weather permitting.
UNK has its own summer project planned to enhance the east side of campus.
The university will request bids next month for improvements near Warner Hall that create a more attractive east entrance and “front door” to campus for current Lopers, prospective students and visitors.
“One of the primary design drivers in the landscape master plan is to develop a new, memorable arrival experience for visitors and create a consistent and attractive image statement about the campus,” said Jon Watts, vice chancellor for business and finance at UNK.
The east gateway project, outlined in the 2006-15 master plan, includes a circular drop-off/pick-up area in front of Warner Hall, pillars, lighting, public art and UNK identity wall matching the one along Highway 30 on the west side of campus. Landscaping improvements and pedestrian pathways linking campus with the surrounding community are also part of the project.
“Working alongside the city of Kearney and Nebraska Department of Transportation, we will make the east entrance more prominent, spacious, accessible and safe,” Watts said. “This effort will enhance the people-friendly aspects of campus.”
The project will result in the loss of 15 parking stalls along Ninth Avenue and 25th Street just east of Warner Hall, however, a new parking lot will be developed on the former Luke and Jake’s Bar-B-Q property purchased by UNK last summer. UNK also added 39 parking stalls when it developed Lot 8C east of Warner Hall in summer 2016 in anticipation of this project.
Funding for the east entrance project was approved in May 2017, prior to universitywide budget cuts ordered by the Nebraska Legislature. That money, up to $1.75 million, cannot be reallocated for other purposes.