Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 1990


October 24, 1990


Voter approval on Nov. 6 of bond issues for the eastern parkway and south Lawrence trafficway won't result in the immediate construction of the two roads, but it will set the city and county in full motion toward their longstanding goals.

Questions such as "Should the roads be built?" or "What's the corridor?" soon will be replaced by "When does construction begin?" and "When can I drive on the road?"

If Douglas County voters approve $4 million in bonds for the south Lawrence trafficway on Nov. 6, Election Day would nearly mark the midway point in the project. By the time voters go to the polls that day, the trafficway proposal will be almost 5 years old. County officials estimate it will be another four to five years before the initial two lanes of the 14.1-mile road are built.

Plans call for the trafficway to loop around the western and southern edges of Lawrence connecting the Kansas Turnpike and Kansas Highway 10.

THE COUNTY'S timetable does not allow for any complications, but an attorney in a group opposed to the trafficway said the county could face a legal challenge over the Nov. 6 vote.

Lawrence attorney Don Strole said CARES (Citizens for Appropriate Roads and Environmental Safeguards) will await election results to decide whether to file suit against the county over an "explanatory statement" accompanying the trafficway ballot question.

CARES contends the statement is not allowable by law and also will unfairly influence voters to approve the trafficway bond issue.

"All we've ever wanted was for the county to treat the public fairly," Strole said.

Barring a lawsuit, the process toward construction of the trafficway is a straightforward one, said Frank Hempen, Douglas County public works director.

"The first step is to formalize negotiations for design contracts with the engineers we have already selected," he said.

THIS STEP, expected to take six to nine months, will give the county an idea of what its right of way needs will be, Hempen said. It also will provide a picture of what the trafficway ultimately will look like. At that time, he said, the county would hold a "design public hearing."

From that point, the county will begin to acquire the right of way, or the strip of land needed to build the trafficway. The cost of buying right of way is estimated at $2.4 million.

Simultaneously with the right of way purchases, the county will enter its "final design phase" with engineers. In this phase, construction plans and specifications will be completed so the county can solicit bids. It is estimated that this phase will take another six to nine months, ending in 1992.

Bidding on the project won't start until the majority of the right of way is acquired and utilities are relocated, Hempen said.

AN OPTIMUM time to begin construction, Hempen said, would be late 1992 or early 1993. Construction is estimated to take from 18 months to three years to finish, bringing the completion date to 1995 or 1996.

"It may be five to six years before we can drive on it," Hempen said. But, McKenzie added, segments may be finished before then.

The trafficway has a considerable head start on the eastern parkway, a road proposed to link downtown Lawrence with K-10 near the East Hills Business Park. But City Manager Mike Wildgen said he is confident that if the pieces fall in the right order, the parkway could be completed as early as 1995 or 1996.

If voters approve the parkway bonds, first on the agenda for the city will be the completion of the corridor study and environmental assessment. Johnson, Brickell, Mulcahy and Associates, a Kansas City engineering firm, began those studies earlier this month. Completion of the studies is expected by the beginning of 1992.

THE NEXT step is to hold a series of public hearings on JBM's findings and for the city commission to select the road's corridor. Once a corridor is selected, Wildgen said, the city could begin issuing part of the bonds to acquire right of way.

The concept is to build a two-lane, limited access road on four lanes of right of way. Traffic engineers refer to the road as a "super-two" highway.

In the meantime, the city will be trying to secure additional funding for the parkway, which is estimated to cost $10.5 million. Among the possible sources are the state and federal governments.

With funding secured, right of way purchased and utilities relocated, the next step would be to draw up final engineering plans and then seek bids for the project. The final step, then, would be construction.

Wildgen said he thinks it is plausible for the parkway to be open to drivers within six years if plans go smoothly.

"It's always in the range of eight to 10 to 12 years for most roads like that," he said. "In my opinion, we've been working on the parkway at least a couple of years. By 1996, we'd be looking in the eight-year range. To me, that's realistic."

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