Fayette County

UK’s request to close section of Rose Street meets opposition

View from Columbia Avenue toward Huguelet Drive on Rose Street on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington.
View from Columbia Avenue toward Huguelet Drive on Rose Street on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

A proposal to permanently close a section of Rose Street from Columbia Avenue to Huguelet Drive on the University of Kentucky campus met with more questions Tuesday.

Lexington planning officials have given tentative approval for the permanent closure of the section of Rose if the university agreed to certain conditions.

But a committee of the Urban County Council delayed taking action on the request Tuesday. Some on council said more issues needed to be addressed before they could vote on the proposal.

The ownership and control of Hilltop Avenue, which the university has said it wants to close in its long-term plan, is a key sticking point in the closure of Rose Street. The city wants UK to agree in writing that the city owns Hilltop. Other conditions the city wants for the closure of Rose Street include reworking the intersection of Woodland Avenue and Sports Center Drive so more traffic can be re-routed to Sports Center Drive, a new road that is underutilized.

That section of Rose Street has been temporarily closed since July 2014 due to construction in that area.

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University officials told the Urban County Council at a council meeting in April the permanent closure of Rose Street was about improving pedestrian safety on campus. But some on council said they were concerned the city’s largest employer was trying to get one street closed without addressing traffic and pedestrian safety issues across the campus. The plan would allow local traffic on Rose Street from Columbia Avenue to Funkhouser Drive so vehicles could access parking on Funkhouser.

“We are proposing a mall-area be created in that area. It will create a shared-use path,” said Mary Vosevich, vice president for facilities management for UK. “This is for the increased safety of our students and staff.” Vosevich spoke Tuesday before the Urban County Council’s Planning and Public Works Committee.

Vosevich said the design would still allow for emergency vehicles.

The city’s planning, engineering and other departments reviewed the street closure proposal over the past several months, said Jonathan Hollinger, a senior administrator with the city’s planning department.

Hollinger said other conditions the city would like to see addressed include allowing fire and police to review the designs of the street closure to ensure that fire trucks and ambulances can access the street. Future changes to Rose Street must also get approval. UK must also assume responsibility for 11 street lights on that section of the street.

Vosevich told the council Tuesday UK wants more traffic to be re-routed to Sports Center Drive and agreed with that condition. It also had no problems with taking over the 11 street lights.

The ownership of Hilltop Avenue, however, is another issue.

Vosevich said the university has found records that a part of Hilltop is actually owned by UK. “I don’t think we are ready to put in writing that Hilltop is 100 percent LFUCG property,” Vosevich said.

The university has also signaled it would eventually like to close Woodland Avenue. Council members said in April they wanted to consider the closing of parts of Rose in conjunction with the closing of sections of Hilltop and Woodland so the entire traffic impact could be studied.

“From a public safety standpoint, we have had a concern with that,” said Doug Burton, the director of the city’s engineering department, of the closing of Hilltop. Burton said the city believes it owns all of Hilltop.

Councilman Jake Gibbs, whose district includes Rose and Hilltop, said he has a lot of concerns about the closing of Hilltop and did not want to vote on the closure of Rose until the Hilltop issue is addressed. Hilltop is a major connector road.

Vosevich said that if the city owns part of Hilltop, the university has to come back to the city for permission to close it.

“We have no intentions of doing anything with that in the near future,” Vosevich said.

Gibbs said he may consider holding a neighborhood public meeting about UK’s plans to close a section of Rose Street.

The issue of closing the section of Rose Street will likely return to the council in coming months.

Hollinger said their current street closure permit for Rose Street expires Jan. 5.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall