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Archive for Tuesday, October 20, 1998

BALDWIN DETOURS ON U.S. 59 DECISION

October 20, 1998

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Baldwin City Council members said they weren't sure how improvements to U.S. 59 would affect the city, no matter what the road's alignment.

The Baldwin City Council on Monday night decided not to decide on which route members favor for an improved U.S. Highway 59.

``I don't want us to appear wishy-washy, but this is pretty split and I just don't see how we can decide with what we have and without more information from KDOT,'' said council member Jennie Washburn.

``I don't think people understand what the impact will be for this community -- I certainly don't -- no matter which route they choose.''

The council unanimously approved a resolution declining to adopt a position on U.S. 59.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has outlined two possible alternatives for the 22-mile stretch of highway between Ottawa and Lawrence.

One option would be an ``expressway,'' in which the existing two-lane road would be widened to four lanes at its current location.

The second would be a new four-lane ``freeway'' that would be built about a mile east of the current highway.

Under the first proposal, some crossroads would still intersect with the highway, but others that currently cross U.S. 59 would be closed, in order to make it safer, officials said. Access roads and traffic signals near each city also would be built, they said.

Under the new freeway proposal, four or five interchanges would be built between Lawrence and Ottawa and bridges on secondary roads would be constructed over the highway. Other roads would dead-end at the highway.

Preliminary cost estimates: $75 million to expand the existing highway; $135 million for a new freeway.

KDOT has said about 35 homes and five to 10 businesses would be displaced, and 250 landowners would lose property if the current road were widened to four lanes.

If a new highway is built, about five homes and an unknown number of businesses would be displaced, and 70 landowners would be affected.

Some area residents want the current highway expanded while others want the new freeway built.

Petitions on both sides of the controversial issue have been circulated.

Residents who oppose expanding the existing road and want a new freeway built presented a petition with 170 signatures to the council on Monday night.

Another petition taken at the Zarco convenience store, located on the highway between Lawrence and Baldwin, has generated more than 1,000 signatures in favor of widening the existing road.

State officials have said that a decision on which alignment they plan to pursue would be made by the end of the year.

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

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