On Tuesday, Lawrence and Douglas County voters will be asked to approve two bond issues for construction of two major roads in the area, the eastern parkway and the south Lawrence trafficway.
The two roads, along with planned improvements to U.S. Highway 40 west of the city, constitute the circumferential loop of highways planned for around Lawrence.
The parkway and trafficway, although linked together in the circumferential loop, will be decided in separate bond issues. Lawrence voters alone will be asked whether to issue $4 million in bonds for the parkway; county voters, including residents of Lawrence, will be asked to approve the $4 million in bonds issued in 1985 by the county for the trafficway.
As with any major projects, the south Lawrence trafficway and eastern parkway have resulted in a multitude of questions from residents trying to determine their vote on Tuesday. The following list of questions and answers is designed to provide voters with basic information about the two projects.
Q: What is the south Lawrence trafficway?
A: The trafficway is a county proposal that would cover 14.1 miles around the western and southern areas of Lawrence. Its northwestern leg would begin at County Road 438 just north of the Kansas Turnpike. From there it would go southward to Clinton Parkway, where it would veer south and east. The trafficway would stay north of the Wakarusa River and terminate at Kansas Highway 10, east of East Hills Business Park.
Q: How much would the project cost?
A: The trafficway will cost $41.79 in its initial phase. The bond issue for the project will cost county taxpayers $4 million, and another $722,900 will come from other county funds. This amount is 11 percent of the project's cost. The other 89 percent, or $37.06 million, is being financed from outside sources, including money secured from the Kansas Turnpike Authority, along with the state and federal government.
Ultimately the trafficway is to be expanded to four lanes, although the initial plans are to build just the first two lanes. The state estimates adding the extra two lanes will bring the total cost to $60.5 million in 1990 dollars.
Q: What is the cost of the bonds in terms of property taxes?
A: The "Vote Yes for Roads" steering committee, a group promoting the trafficway and eastern parkway, estimates that an owner of a $50,000 home will pay $3.43 per year to retire the bonds over their 20 year life. An owner of a $75,000 home will pay $5.14 annually and an owner of a $100,000 home will pay $6.85 per year.
Q: But weren't these bonds already issued?
A: Yes. The Douglas County Commission, using its home-rule powers in 1985, issued $4 million in general obligation bonds without a public vote. County taxpayers have been paying on the project for five years.
Q; Why is the vote on the trafficway being held now?
A: In 1987, Lawrence resident Leslie W. Blevins sued the county contending that it should have held an election before issuing the bonds 1985. In 1989, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the bond issue invalid because county should have held an election for the bond issue. The high court reversed that decision in July, declaring the bond issue legal, but said that Kansas counties could not issue bonds for such projects in the future without a public vote. In the interim, city and county commissioners decided to have the county vote on the bonds.
Q: When would the trafficway's construction be completed?
A: The scheduled completion date for the initial phase is either 1995 or 1996, although segments of the trafficway may be opened sooner.
Q: How will traffic be able to access the trafficway?
A: The trafficway will have 15 points of entry. Four points will have interchanges like interstate highways, and a fifth interchange may be built. The other 11 points will be "at-grade" intersections. Vehicles entering the trafficway at-grade will be controlled by stop signs. There are no traffic lights scheduled for the route. The intersections will feature acceleration and deceleration lanes to allow for a safe entry and exit with the trafficway.
Q: What exactly is the eastern parkway?
A: The eastern parkway is proposed as a two-lane road stretching from the Kansas River bridges in downtown Lawrence to Kansas Highway 10 near the East Hills Business Park.
Q: What will its route be?
A: The exact route for the parkway has not yet been identified. A Kansas City engineering firm is currently conducting a corridor study and environmental assessment, and it will present the Lawrence City Commission with recommended routes sometime in 1991.
Q: How much will the parkway cost?
A: City officials estimate the cost at $10.5 million. It is estimated that owners of a $75,000 home in property taxes will pay an average of $4.70 annually over the 20-year life of the bonds.
Q: Voters are only being asked to approve $4 million in bonds for the parkway; where's the rest of the money supposed to come from?
A: The city and county, which are partners in the circumferential road system, say they hope to use money from the bond issue as "leverage" to attract federal or state funding for the parkway. In fact, the city has pledged not to issue up to $2.7 million of the bonds until the state or federal funds have been secured. The initial $1.3 million will be spent for completion of the corridor study and environmental assessment and for the purchase of right of way.
Q: What are the benefits of the eastern parkway?
A: Supporters cite many reasons, but say that smooth traffic flow and safety are among the biggest benefits. They contend that the parkway will provide a direct route between downtown and K-10, which will result in a reduced traffic on residential streets in East Lawrence. Visitors to Lawrence from Johnson County won't have to pour into the city on 23rd Street and through East Lawrence to get to downtown or to the Riverfront Plaza; residents in the older neighborhoods around the downtown will have a new, direct route to K-10.
Q: Why is there opposition to the parkway?
A: Opponents, too, cite myriad reasons. Some contend that there's already a bottleneck near the Kansas River bridges and that added traffic from the parkway will only add to the problem. Others say that the road only will serve the interests of downtown merchants and neighborhoods around it. Some say that a two-lane road is not big enough. Still others say they'd rather see a bypass east of Lawrence that carries traffic from K-10 across the Kansas River to I-70.
Q: When would people be able to drive on the parkway?
A: City Manager Mike Wildgen says that if the bond issue is approved Tuesday and if the remainder of the funding is secured in a timely fashion, the parkway could be completed by 1995 or 1996.