I have reviewed the recently released Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the South Lawrence Trafficway. This document is inadequate, and I question whether it has been prepared lawfully. Four major areas of weakness are:
1) Alternatives to the proposed trafficway were not adequately considered. Specifically, a route which would have gone south of the Wakarusa was dismissed without a study of the area, an eastern bypass was dismissed based on outdated studies and public transportation alternatives were not considered.
2) There are possible wetland areas which would be impacted by the proposed trafficway that have not been studied and for which mitigation plans have not been created. These areas run along the Yankee Tank Creek, which the proposed trafficway crosses several times.
3) The financial commitment of Douglas County and the City of Lawrence is presumed in the EIS but is in question now because of a recent Kansas Supreme Court decision affecting home rule authority (Blevins vs. Hiebert).
4) Promises of relieved traffic congestion on 23rd Street with the trafficway in place are made without substantiating studies. The major study of traffic flow was an origin-destination study. This type of study does not consider internal traffic, which makes up the largest percentage of traffic on 23rd Street.
One positive aspect of the EIS process has been that considerable attention has been focused on the Elkins Prairie, which contains federally listed threatened species. Through zoning restrictions, county and city officials have shown commitment to protecting Elkins Prairie. To really provide lasting protection, however, the Elkins Prairie should be purchased and made into a public educational resource. The possibility of public acquisition of Elkins Prairie should be outlined in the EIS.
Until the four areas outlined above are addressed, the South Lawrence Trafficway should be put on hold. It appears likely that the proposed trafficway is intended to promote growth and development south and west of Lawrence, more than to relieve traffic congestion on 23rd Street. This proposal should have been presented with its intentions up front, and people should have been given the chance to vote on the project. As it is, the project has been foisted on the public without a vote and with unsubstantiated promises of improved traffic flow on 23rd Street.
Rt. 1, Box 125B.