Chat about the South Lawrence Trafficway with Grant Eichhorn

October 16, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Grant Eichhorn

When it comes to building the final leg of the controversial South Lawrence Trafficway, Grant Eichhorn - chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission - has an idea he hopes would work.

Eichhorn said Wednesday that he thinks there's still a chance to reach a deal with Haskell Indian Nations University that would keep the SLT out of a wetlands area the university considers sacred.

The idea: Expand the number of lanes on 31st Street, in exchange for moving the proposed trafficway south of the Wakarusa River.


Hi. We're ready to start our chat with Grant Eichhorn, who is chair of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. We have a few questions already, but feel free to submit more. Grant has recently been talking about the South Lawrence Trafficway issue, and about an idea for expanding the existing 31st Street. Let's start with that, Grant. Explain what your thinking on the subject has been.

Grant Eichhorn:

Very clearly the guidelines of the MPO state- (rule #1) preservation of existing roadways have to be taken into consideration in the process. That means 31st street is a real road that must be taken into this consideration of T-2030. The issues surrounding 31st are varied but boil down to right of way. If the right of way is found it should be a considered local arterial. If it is not found then it becomes a very different project.



From a sustainability point of view, building and maintaining two bridges and a longer roadway seem unwise as compared to a shorter land-only route. Your thoughts? Thanks.

Also, instead of widening 31st on the north side of the street, how about the south side? That would avoid disturbing Haskell's land.

Grant Eichhorn:

Quite difficult for me to discuss ongoing maintenance. Eastern roadway across river is substantially shorter-however. In the T2030 scenarios as well as traffic counts the existing bridge is near capacity (I assume most readers understand this from their real lives). Plan 95 as well asT2025 have a course for this eastern bypass bridge. It is likely T2030 will continue to consider this route as well. I can't tell you which side of 31st can be widened because the county doesn't own that land. It would be speculative to engineer a road w/o known ROW.


Grant: Given that this topic has been floating around for two decades now - and given that 31st street has been part of this controversy for years - what has changed that makes you think your proposed compromise could gain traction? And what reaction have you heard so far?

Grant Eichhorn:

As stated in first answer the MPO has very specific guidelines that it must follow. Theses are not just federal suggestions. Haskell has been informed very directly that this process is taken place and they hold all the proverbial cards in seeing the expanded 31st street scenario. If ROW is not produced then that scenario goes away. It is likely that any scenario that comes under scrutiny and lawsuit will be judged procedurally and the role of the MPO is to follow specific guidelines. As chair of the MPO I am following said rules by considering existing roadway.


Just briefly explain what the Transportation 2030 process is, and how much control the Planning Commission/MPO has over the process.

Grant Eichhorn:

The T2030 process is a subcommittee of the MPO. 2030 is being produced by a consultant because of the fast track nature. It is a mandate that any community in Kansas that wishes to receive federal monies must have an MPO and review their transportation plans every 5 years (or sooner). The MPO structure is (for now) the membership of the planning commission. The MPO has voted that after this T2020 process is finished that the membership should change to more specifically align those community positions that deal more specifically with roads- city and county public works, and representatives of the city and county commissions as well as the planning department. The MPO votes on adopting the 2030 plan and forwards the recommendations to the city and county commissions. The city and county commissions do not vote on the MPO plans. There are representatives of the city and county on the 2030 subcommittee.


If the 32nd route were used, would the existing wetland be destroyed? Thanks

Grant Eichhorn:

The word destroyed is rather subjective. There are substantial mitigation plans for a 32nd street alignment. The 4f review that is being finished by the feds is in direct response as to whether the Haskell Farmlands are historic. Yes, I did mean Farmlands- not historic wetlands.


Why not use existing roadbed on E 1900 Rd and N 1100 Rd? It's only 3 miles south of 23rd, stays well clear of the wetlands, and should be less expensive than building a completely new road.

Grant Eichhorn:

Can't speak to it as it hasn't been on recent radar. Sounds like an alternative that may have been looked at previously as the 35th street alignment?


What makes the wetland sacred?

Grant Eichhorn:

I would have to believe that is, quite literally, a personal question.


Don't mean to be snide here, but this has been going on all my life. Is there a truly viable option which could be commenced shortly and completed in my lifetime?
How does the need to tie-in with the new and improved US-59 affect those prospects?

Grant Eichhorn:

I certainly don't think the question is snide. Agness T. Frog existed during my graduation year- 1989. Using the 31st street corridor as a local arterial is viable. That allows some relief of some very acute traffic situations but only if there is ROW. The need to tie into the new 59 is HUGE. There is a new inter modal facility planned in Gardner that will, upon completion, put 10,000 more trucks on our nearby highways. The ability to connect 56 and K-10 as well as K-10 to I70 are paramount to our discussions. And did I already mention the federal guidelines that we must follow. There is very clear indication that a traffic plan that does not take into effect efficient freight movement is not a plan at all.


We'll end with that. Thanks to everybody who took part in the chat today.

Grant Eichhorn:

I appreciate the ability to respond to the community about this very important process. Thanks for the opportunity.


Centrist 10 years, 4 months ago

Why not an overpass ON 31st street, a la Kellogg in Wichita?!?!

Bladerunner 10 years, 4 months ago

Just build the damn thing.. I really dont even care where it goes anymore.

PapaB 10 years, 4 months ago

Would there be any fuss whatsoever if KDOT wanted to build through a farmer's land that he felt was sacred because he built and used a medicine wheel and had family members buried on it?

Katherine Greene 10 years, 4 months ago

Could the moderator please explain MPO and ROW? Thanks.

doc1 10 years, 4 months ago

Pathetic. Build it on the 32nd Route and build a better wetlands!

Joel 10 years, 4 months ago

KAT: I didn't moderate, but: MPO = Metropolitan Planning Organization ROW (I believe) = Right of Way

justthefacts 10 years, 4 months ago

FYI - the claim of bodies being buried has never been substantiated in any sense, despite some pretty extreme tests trying to locate the remains (hundreds of holes dug, on a grid, infra-red detection, etc.). What is more likely to have happened is that the missing students from years ago simply got tired of being there and left. And the medicine wheel has been there, and wet land conditions have existed, how long? I've been told they both have been at these sites for not that many years.

This is a typical "not in my backyard" argument that happens any time the government wants to put anything anywhere. People may favor the public improvement, in general, but almost NEVER when it is to be built too close to them!!

kcwarpony 10 years, 4 months ago

"The issues surrounding 31st are varied but boil down to right of way. If the right of way is found it should be a considered local arterial. If it is not found then it becomes a very different project."

I know a few years back the city said they couldn't find the legal documents showing permission was granted by Haskell to run a city sewer line through its campus. Is Grant saying the county can't find the right of way documents for 31st street or is he talking in terms of determination?

gccs14r 10 years, 4 months ago

Take a look at the area on Google Earth. Having the SLT anywhere on the north side of the river puts it way too close to town and requires tearing up greenspace we'll wish we had in 50 years.

LogicMan 10 years, 4 months ago

"Take a look at the area on Google Earth. Having the SLT anywhere on the north side of the river puts it way too close to town"

Am doing so now. No, the best route is N 1250 Road -- likely what would be 35th Street. Crossing the river, twice, makes no sense, and the longer route would disturb more of the ecosystem.

KsTwister 10 years, 4 months ago

It will never get built. Too plain to see that even the experts on the subject don't have answers either.

Mandie Eutsler 10 years, 4 months ago

so I asked what makes the wetlands sacred. i have not gotten a clear answer and am curious. could somebody help me out here. I didn't mean to offend Grant but I don't understand how that is "quite literally a personal question". If the rest of us have to suffer sh**ty traffic because of sacred ground the least they could do was tell us exactly why.... or maybe he doesn't know. could someone explain?

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