Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 1990

COMMISSION MAJORITIES BACK PLAN

October 24, 1990

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A strong consensus, but not unanimity, marks the view of city and county commissions for two road proposals that will go before local voters in 14 days.

The south Lawrence trafficway, an idea developed in 1985 by the Douglas County Commission, continues to receive staunch support from its creator five years later. It likewise has its solid backing on the Lawrence City Commission.

The Eastern Parkway, the city's sibling project to the trafficway, has but one detractor on the city commission and also is favored by the county commission.

The two projects will be decided separately on Nov. 6. the parkway by Lawrence voters only and the trafficway by county voters, including Lawrence residents but together they comprise the major part of the circumferential loop of highways around Lawrence.

County commission chairman Mike Amyx views the trafficway as a multipurpose solution to Lawrence's traffic problem.

"THE SOUTH Lawrence trafficway will act as both a bypass and also (provide) the opportunity for us, as residents in the county, to move from point to point without having to go through all of the congestion that we may see on a lot of the other local streets," he said.

Lawrence's population growth also weighs heavily in Amyx's support.

"Development is going to continue to happen with or without the roads, and I think the opportunity to provide a relief valve today for the future is good."

Nancy Hiebert, who oversaw the inception of the trafficway as county commission chairman in the mid-1980s, said that the project represented good planning on the county's part.

"I think it will give us back our streets," she said, adding that she tried to avoid 23rd Street when driving in Lawrence. "I think we desperately need a better and safer way to get around the community."

Hiebert also said the parkway was a parallel project to the trafficway, and noted that the parkway would help out-of-town shoppers reach downtown.

COMMISSIONER Louie McElhaney said the trafficway was an excellent value.

"I think it's a bargain for the county with the financial situation that's been put into effect," he said of the financing for the $41.8 million project. County taxpayers would be liable for 11 percent of the project's initial cost, with the other 89 percent coming from outside sources, if the $4 million bond issue passes.

McElhaney also voiced support for the parkway.

"I think it will be good for Lawrence," he said. "It will do a lot for downtown once it's put in because of the easy route to downtown from K-10."

On the city commission, Mayor Shirley Martin-Smith is adamant in her support for both road projects. That's a stance she credits for getting her elected to the commission in 1989.

The parkway and trafficway, she said, will serve a number of purposes including being "people movers" and increasing safety for inner-city traffic.

"IF I CAN get down 23rd Street easier, or get some of these cars out of my neighborhood by offering them alternative routes, those are important `quality of life' issues," Martin-Smith said.

City Commissioner Bob Walters, too, is an ardent supporter of both projects.

"Each one stands on its own merits," Walters said of the parkway and trafficway. "Coupled together, they make for a very strong linkage to serve our city well."

Bob Schumm, a city commissioner, has championed the eastern parkway since he unveiled the concept to the public in 1987. He supports the trafficway, too, as part of the total circumferential loop. Without the parkway, though, Schumm's support wanes for the trafficway.

"If the downtown and the central neighborhoods are going to remain viable, you've got to have the parkway in conjunction with the trafficway," Schumm said.

HE OFTEN talks of the parkway providing "balance" to the development he says is sure to follow the trafficway.

"I don't see any major residential growth coming from the parkway, but in terms of stabilizing the central neighborhoods, assisting sales in the core of the city and expanding industrial endeavors, I do see the parkway doing that," he said.

City Commissioner Mike Rundle says he, too, sees the parkway as providing essential balance to the trafficway.

"The trafficway is going to stimulate sprawling development on the west side of town, and we need to provide equal opportunity for the east side of town, so it has adequate access to traffic."

Rundle, however, remains cool to the trafficway.

"I was never comfortable with the decision, although after it was made I proceeded accordingly. I didn't stand up on a soap box and berate the southwest trafficway. My position has been one of trying to mitigate what I felt were negative aspects of the decisions that were being made," he said.

RUNDLE SAID he intends to abide by the voters' decisions no matter what the outcome.

City Commissioner David Penny, on the other hand, is a voice against the eastern parkway. A strong supporter of the south Lawrence trafficway, Penny says he supports an eastern road, but he finds lots of problems with parkway plans.

"If it could be designed to be a project where traffic really flowed through there, it would be easy to sell to the public," Penny said. "But we have one that was designed by a committee before it any of the engineers looked at it."

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