The eastern parkway is a perfect example of a road that many deem necessary but nevertheless creates controversy when the mechanics of it are debated.
The idea behind the parkway is simple enough: Build a road that allows an easy, unclogged route from Kansas Highway 10 to downtown so that East Lawrence residential streets no longer are used by trucks and cars for that purpose.
Getting from the concept to a working plan, however, proved a difficult, highly charged process. And when Lawrence voters go to the polls on Nov. 6 to decide whether to approve $4 million in bonds for construction of the parkway, they'll decide an issue that continues to be debated even among members of the Lawrence City Commission, the road's sponsor.
This much is certain: Even the most vocal of critics don't dispute the need for an eastern road.
THE PARKWAY vote will be one of two local road issues to be contested on the Nov. 6 ballot. While the parkway decision will be left strictly to Lawrence residents, voters from both the city and throughout Douglas County will decide whether to approve a $4 million bond issue for the south Lawrence trafficway.
The parkway and trafficway, along with improvements on U.S. Highway 40 west of Lawrence, make up the so-called circumferential loop of highways planned by local government officials.
Myles Schachter, a downtown businessman, headed the Eastern Parkway Task Force, which studied the road over an 18-month period beginning in 1987. He is an ardent supporter of both the concept and the plan under consideration for the parkway.
THE BENEFITS of the road, Schachter points out, are numerous.
The parkway, he said, will take traffic off of residential streets in East Lawrence, provide an easy route into downtown from the east, allow residents in the older neighborhoods around downtown easy access to K-10 and give employees of firms in East Hills Business Park a clear route to and from work.
The parkway will give farmers north of the city a way to reach farm-related businesses on East 23rd Street without traversing residential streets in East Lawrence. Farmers from east of the city and Eudora also would have an easier route to the grain elevator in North Lawrence.
Also, a parkway would cut down on the travel time of a trip from the East Hills Business Park to the Lawrence Municipal Airport a factor parkway supporters say is vital for economic development efforts.
"This road has been needed for 25 years," Schachter says.
IN ADDITION, Schachter said, the parkway provides what he calls the "entrance ramp" for a future road that would take traffic from the eastern parkway and hook up to the Kansas Turnpike. That road would require a new bridge across the Kansas River.
"This sets the stage for a true eastern bypass," Schachter said.
Bruce Banning, whose family owns commercial and residential property in East Lawrence, said he couldn't agree more that an eastern road is necessary. But he clashed with the majority of the Eastern Parkway Task Force when the group recommended its 18 criteria for development of the road.
Banning said he supports the parkway, and the south Lawrence trafficway for that matter, but he doesn't agree with some of the steps that already have been taken for the parkway, such as the narrowing of East Seventh Street.
ALBERT NEUTEL, president of Reuter Organ, has a similar view. He said he wants an eastern road, but he's not happy with the way traffic now stalls, without the parkway, in the area from Seventh and New Hampshire to Sixth and Massachusetts. That general area is proposed as the western terminus of the parkway.
"Absolutely there is a need for an eastern road," Neutel said. "The circumferential loop has to be completed. But do we dump all of the traffic downtown into that bottleneck or do we allow it to flow through easily to other points?"
Neutel also was critical of the city and county's endorsement of the parkway task force's 18 criteria, which detail steps to follow in the planning and development of the parkway. He said the criteria are so restrictive that they will "tie the hands" of engineers when they design the road.
"It seems we're putting the cart before the horse," Neutel said.
EAST LAWRENCE resident Richard Kershenbaum takes a different view of the criteria. He was a member of the parkway task force that approved the 18 criteria and approves of the concept of the parkway. But Kershenbaum said the city commission has since "watered down" the criteria, so he doesn't support the road plan.
"I think now it's a special-interest project that should be defeated," Kershenbaum said. "The downtown merchants are the only ones who want it and who will benefit from it."
The group CARES (Citizens for Appropriate Roads and Environmental Safeguards) also opposes the parkway, but spokesman J.B. Stephens says the group does favor an eastern bypass.
"We think a better idea is to get all of the truck traffic (from Johnson County and westbound toward Lawrence) off of K-10 and up to the turnpike before it gets into the city. The idea of an eastern route like that appeals to us," he said.