Lawrence city commissioners took two steps Tuesday night toward creating a circumferential road system around Lawrence.
Commissioners set in motion plans to adopt the current route for the Eastern Parkway and they agreed with a Douglas County Commission proposal for acquiring land for the South Lawrence Trafficway right of way.
The parkway, trafficway and improvements to U.S. Highway 40 west of Lawrence make up the proposed loop around the city. The city and county commissions are partners in creation of the two roadways.
City commissioners received a letter Tuesday from their county counterparts saying they reviewed recent studies of the parkway route and had nothing to add.
With that indication to proceed, Commissioner Bob Schumm suggested both commissions officially adopt the route outlined by traffic engineers.
"IT'S SOMETHING to come back to at a later date if the commission is rearranged, and they could say, `Look, this commission adopted this with the county commission. They went through the hearing process and here it is,'" Schumm said.
"I think it's a lot cleaner way if it's challenged, and it will be.''
The current alignment runs from Noria Road along the north side of the Santa Fe tracks, crosses over the tracks at Eighth Street and ties into Seventh Street near the Santa Fe depot.
Commissioners asked city staff to draw a resolution to adopt a final parkway alignment for both commissions to consider.
Schumm then suggested the city look into the next steps for the project, including preparing preliminary design plans and environmental assessments and scheduling a public hearing on design plans.
"I think we have the green light from the public to proceed with this and keep the momentum moving," he said.
Having design plans and parkway studies "on the shelf" would come in handy if funds suddenly become available for construction, said George Williams, director of public works.
COMMISSIONERS asked city staff to work out a timetable and cost estimates on the next stages of parkway planning and report back to the commission.
Earlier in the meeting, city commissioners concurred with a policy set last Wednesday by the county for purchasing right of way land for the South Lawrence Trafficway.
The 14.1-mile trafficway will loop south and west around Lawrence from Kansas Highway 10 to a new interchange on the Kansas Turnpike northwest of the city.
County commissioners decided on a maximum 450-foot right of way with a 50-foot setback on both sides of the right of way.
The right of way would provide green areas and space to construct a pedestrian-bicycle path, according to John Pasley, trafficway project manager.
The right of way could be narrowed in places to preserve existing homes, businesses, historic sites and natural features. Setbacks are intended as green space extending from the edge of a right of way.
Commissioners said they were pleased with the policy.
"I THINK this does exactly what we hoped it would," Schumm said. "It allows us to put in the hike and bike trail, and I think it provides the green space we hoped to have."
Portions of the trafficway will run through city limits. In many cases the current setback for city properties is 30 feet, said City Manager Mike Wildgen.
To create 50-foot setbacks, the city would create an "overlay district" covering all the properties within 500 feet of either side of the trafficway.
Commissioners requested that the city-county planning commission consider creating the district. Specifications for the district would come back to city commissioners in the form of an ordinance, which they would consider approving.
Commissioner John Nalbandian also asked staff to draw up a proposal for restricting the types of signs allowed along the trafficway.
WHETHER ALL land within the suggested 450-foot right of way will be purchased is still up in the air.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has agreed to purchase property needed for right of way but hasn't considered the 450-foot maximum set by the county commission.
The county soon will try to sell KDOT on the policy, but no date has been set yet for a discussion with KDOT officials, said County Commission Chairman Mark Buhler.