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Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 1990

LAWRENCE VOTERS WOULD BE FIRST INVESTORS IN ROAD PLAN

October 23, 1990

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Where funding for the proposed eastern parkway is concerned, local officials are banking on the same basic sources they targeted for the south Lawrence trafficway: local taxpayers and the state and federal governments.

But unlike the south Lawrence trafficway, for which 89 percent of necessary funding already is in place, the eastern parkway's bank account balance is $0. If Lawrence voters approve a $4 million bond issue for the parkway on Nov. 6, they will become the first investors of consequence in the parkway financing structure.

City and county officials say they're hopeful that if local taxpayers make a firm financial commitment to the parkway, they'll be able to convince Kansas Department of Transportation and federal highway officials to buy into the project.

But they say the first step gaining approval for the bonds is critical.

"IF WE RECEIVE authority for the $4 million in bonds, it sends a strong message to KDOT and the feds that this road is necessary and our residents are willing to put their money behind it," Lawrence City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. "I think it's vitally important to send a positive message to the state and federal government."

The two-lane parkway, which is to link downtown Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 near the East Hills Business Park, is estimated to cost $10.5 million to complete. The local officials hope to "leverage" the $4 million in local money, using it to gain the remainder of the funding.

If voters approve the $4 million in bond authority, just $1.3 million will be spent immediately. The initial portion will be spent for completion of a corridor study, which got under way earlier this month, relocation of utilities and purchase of right of way. The remaining $2.7 million in bonds will not be issued until funding to complete the project is secured.

CITY MANAGER Mike Wildgen said local officials will lobby for funding from several state and federal road-building programs. Among them are the federal Surface Transportation Act and the state's economic development highway program.

The city and county have successfully gained funding from those sources in the past. For example, the Surface Transportation Act provided $7.2 million for the south Lawrence trafficway, and road-widening projects on Sixth Street took place with the help of the state's economic development funding for highways.

Wildgen also is pinning hopes for funding on the state's system enhancements road program. The $625 million program is part of the comprehensive highway bill passed by the 1989 Legislature. The south Lawrence trafficway, for example, received $27.7 million in system enhancements funding.

PROJECTS receiving systems enhancements funding were announced this past June, and the parkway was not among them. But communities must provide their local matches for the program by June 1, 1991, or the money will go back to the state for distribution elsewhere.

"I've heard there are other local governments not having success in getting their local match for their projects," Wildgen said. "That doesn't necessarily mean the parkway will qualify later any more than it has, but it does mean we will have an opportunity if it's true for possibilities there."

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