Chat about the South Lawrence Trafficway with Grant Eichhorn
October 16, 2007
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
I appreciate the ability to respond to the community about this very important process. Thanks for the opportunity.