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Archive for Tuesday, November 10, 1998

SLT ATTORNEY ADDRESSES NEIGHBORHOOD CONCERNS

November 10, 1998

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The plaintiffs' attorney in the South Lawrence Trafficway case makes a presentation to a neighborhood group concerned about growth and traffic.

Concerned about increased traffic and safety ramifications of the South Lawrence Trafficway's eastern leg, members of the University Place Neighborhood Assn. quizzed attorney Bob Eye about legal issues involved in the highway at their fall meeting Monday.

Eye, who represents plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration, the Kansas Department of Transportation and Douglas County, said the entire case boils down to process.

"The primary challenge was procedural in nature," Eye said.

The agencies involved in building the trafficway, mired in legal battles for years, threw process out the window and did so in a manner that violates federal law, Eye told the nearly two dozen people at the meeting.

He was referring to the supplemental environment impact statement that governmental agencies began but did not finish. The plaintiffs represented by Eye and Bruce Plenk sued, and U.S. District Judge Tom Van Bebber barred the county and KDOT from taking any action and expending funds on the eastern leg until completion of the SEIS.

The defendants appealed Van Bebber's ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A panel of three judges from the court heard oral arguments Sept. 23. The judges have not issued their opinion.

"It could be any day," Eye said.

The defendants have argued they do not have to complete the SEIS because no federal funds will be used on the eastern leg, a project earmarked as the county's most important by commissioners earlier this year. Douglas County Commission Chair Tom Taul attended Eye's presentation but did not address the group.

Eye said many people wonder why the SEIS, mandated by the National Environmental Protection Act, was never finished since it was so close to completion.

"That's a question that's been troubling and puzzling to us as well," Eye said, surmising that the taking of wetlands troubled officials working on the study.

Members of the group asked Eye, who pointed out Kansas has lost 90 percent of its wetlands since 1950, about what will happen next. He said he could not predict the trafficway's future.

"It has been a very tough battle unquestionably because the stakes are extremely high," Eye said, "but it's been worthwhile, at least to me."

Bill Tsutsui is president of the neighborhood group, which is bordered by Kansas University on the north, 19th Street on the south, Louisiana Street on the east and Naismith Drive on the west. He said traffic definitely has picked up along Louisiana Street in the past year.

The neighborhood, with some 260 households, did not invite a representative from the other side to speak at the association meeting partly because University Place residents are "pretty sympathetic" to the plaintiffs' arguments, Tsutsui said.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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