Archive for Friday, October 20, 1995

34TH STREET STILL WAITING ON STOPLIGHT

October 20, 1995

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The planning commission has put off a decision on an issue that has a lot of groups seeing red.

The official debate over whether to install a stoplight at 34th and Iowa to serve a proposed 2,000-seat cinema complex and J.C. Penny store is on hold until next month.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission had been expected to take up the matter at its meeting Wednesday, but 34th Street Investors, the developer of the property, asked that it be deferred until the commission's meeting on Nov. 15. The development site is on the west side of Iowa between 33rd and 35th streets.

``We're working to get more information so a determination can be made,'' said Dan Watkins, attorney for 34th Street Investors.

Watkins said his clients had hired a traffic engineer to analyze traffic flows in that area and decide how best to move vehicles through the new development.

The issue has become complicated because a number of interests have joined the debate.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has said it won't approve a traffic signal at 34th Street because it would be the fifth one in the half-mile stretch from 31st Street to the South Lawrence Trafficway interchange. As such, it would not meet KDOT's access management guidelines.

The city of Lawrence also has said it doesn't like the developer's proposal to install a public street from Iowa Street west along the 34th Street alignment to the Easy Living Mobile Home Park. Instead, the city wants traffic moved through the commercial development and emptied onto 33rd Street.

Although there may be room for compromise on the traffic signal issue, Fred Sherman, a member of the city planning staff, said KDOT will not approve a light that would allow motorists to make a left turn through the median on Iowa.

It's possible, Sherman said, that KDOT would go for a restricted access intersection, such as one that would allow a left turn off Iowa while not permitting motorists leaving businesses to make left turns back onto the street.

That's where Crown Chevrolet and Payless Cashways join the fray.

``We do not want access to be reduced or cut off at 34th and Iowa," said Wint Winter Jr., an attorney who represents the two businesses on the east side of Iowa. ``The intersection is just fine the way it is.''

Winter said his clients already will lose access off of 35th Street when the South Lawrence Trafficway interchange is built.

``That leaves us with 34th Street, and now they're talking about reducing access,'' he said.

Although Crown Chevrolet and Payless Cashways don't oppose 34th Street Investors' plan to develop the site across the street, Winter said, they may oppose it if the proposal for a restricted access interchange stays alive.

``At that point, we become hostile,'' Winter said. ``We want to make sure we're not unintentional victims in this.''

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