Both sides of the South Lawrence Trafficway controversy will be represented at ground-breaking festivities Thursday.
Civic and business leaders who plan to give the South Lawrence Trafficway a ceremonial send off Thursday will meet with opposition.
The Alliance for Environmental Justice, a citizens group, plans to protest a ground-breaking ceremony for the trafficway, which the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce will hold at 11:30 a.m. at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Douglas County Road 13, ``the Corps Road.'' The chamber event will be followed by a picnic lunch.
Lena Johnson, spokesperson for the alliance, said the trafficway protest will begin at 11 a.m.
Gary Toebben, chamber president, said the ground-breaking ceremony will mark the beginning of construction on the western half of the 14-mile road, which will loop around the southern and western portions of the city to link Kansas Highway 10 with the Kansas Turnpike. Trafficway proponents have spent 10 years pushing the $60 million project, he said.
``I'm just excited that we're finally breaking ground on the roadway,'' he said, adding that a voter referendum, public hearings and legal actions all paved the way for the trafficway.
Johnson said members of the alliance, who ``don't want to see economic development overshadow the environmental, social and spiritual concerns of the community,'' have three basic objections to the trafficway:
- ``The county should be considering a no-build option in the SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement),'' Johnson said. That study, now in progress, will address the eastern portion of the road, from Iowa Street to Kansas Highway 10, and the Alliance objects to construction of the western portion before completion of the SEIS.
- The ground-breaking was scheduled while Haskell Indian Nations University is on summer break, and Haskell students have been instrumental in protesting the trafficway's encroachment on spiritual sites at the school, Johnson said.
- The ground-breaking will be held on the site of memorials to Elkins Prairie. The 80-acre prairie, which was located on the northeast corner of that intersection, was regarded as the state's largest tract of virgin prairie before its owners plowed it in November 1990.
Toebben said the chamber had no hidden agenda in its planning of Thursday's event.
``The selection of the time for the ground-breaking had to do with when the contractor was ready to begin construction. It had nothing to do with any other schedules,'' Toebben said.
``The site was selected because it was the most easily accessed location along the route where construction will begin.''