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Archive for Thursday, June 18, 1998

ROAD STUDY DRIVES RESIDENTS TO PROTEST

June 18, 1998

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— The second of several public meetings on a comprehensive, long-range highway plan for roads between Topeka and Kansas City was held Wednesday in Perry.

Several Jefferson County residents told state and private engineers conducting a long-range traffic study about what residents don't want: A realignment of U.S. Highway 24 between Tonganoxie and Perry.

``I'm very opposed to the (proposed) highway (realignment) being built,'' said Jan Holmer, who lives about five miles north of the Lawrence Municipal Airport in Jefferson County. ``It's going to ruin the neighborhood.''

Holmer was one of about 120 people who attended the second in a series of public meetings for a comprehensive, long-range highway plan of major roads between Topeka and Kansas City.

The plan, called the Kaw Connects study, includes six counties in a 2,200-square-mile area. Lawrence is located near the center of the study area.

The Kansas Department of Transportation and Kansas Turnpike Authority are conducting the study, which is estimated to cost up to $1.28 million.

The agencies have hired HDR Engineering Inc., Kansas City, Mo., to be the lead firm in the study. The engineering company will look at all major roads in the area, including the Kansas Turnpike, Kansas highways 10 and 7, and U.S. highways 24, 59 and 40.

Officials want public comment in shaping a list of possible projects, which could include adding lanes, installing bicycle paths, developing light rail and more highway interchanges.

Several members of the Jefferson County Task Force, a group that formed to oppose realignment of U.S. 24, attended the meeting.

State Rep. Joann Flower, R-Oskaloosa, whose district includes most of Jefferson and eastern Douglas counties, said residents want the least intrusive improvements to Highway 24.

``I'm glad they're taking their time and doing a real thorough study,'' she said. ``(Highway) 24, it's going to have to be improved at some time in some way. What you want to do is improve it in a way that is least intrusive to people.

``But it's intrusive to somebody, no matter how you do it.''

Southern Jefferson County resident Eileen Larson said engineers need to look at improving existing roads, not realigning them or adding new highways.

``We have to look at what we have instead of opening up another area of destruction,'' she said.

The study won't be completed until June 1999.

HDR is encouraging written comments about the study. A toll-free telephone hotline also has been set up, 1-877-KAWconx (1-877-529-2669). Additional information also is available on the Internet at http://www.KAWConnects.com.

More public forums on the study are scheduled for September and January.

-- Mike Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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