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Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998

FOCUS ON US-59 TASK FORCE MEETS IN LAWRENCE.

May 29, 1998

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Area officials pushing for four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa held a strategy meeting Thursday at city hall.

``We're going to have to lobby and lobby and lobby whoever we can lobby,'' said Gene Ramsey of Ottawa, one of 14 members on the Focus on US-59 Task Force.

The group was formed last month to promote the road improvements. State highway officials estimate it will cost about $135 million to convert two lanes to four on the 20 miles between Lawrence and Ottawa.

That's something that won't happen unless the Legislature approves it as part of a new statewide, highway improvement program. Or so the task force members were told at their first meeting April 15 at Ottawa Country Club by Kansas Transportation Secretary Dean Carlson.

With that in mind, members agreed Thursday to send a resolution to Gov. Bill Graves stating their support for a major highway plan. Graves has promised to make a new road building program a top priority of his administration, if elected in November to a second term.

``There's been pretty clear indication the governor will propose this to the Legislature in 1999,'' if he is re-elected, said Rep. Ralph Tanner, a Baldwin Republican and one of several area legislators on the task force.

Tanner also suggested the task force ask for a seat for one of its members on the statewide highway task force soon to be appointed by Graves.

Mike Matson, a spokesman for Graves, said members of the governor's task force will be announced within two weeks.

Members of the local task force also agreed to form various subcommittees to handle various promotional tasks. One subcommittee will handle media relations. Another will handle legislative lobbying. A third will monitor candidates in the upcoming Kansas House elections to determine their views on a major highway building plan.

The city of Lawrence was represented at the meeting by Mayor Marty Kennedy and City Commissioner Erv Hodges.

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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