Archive for Tuesday, September 29, 1998


September 29, 1998


Residents who live near U.S. Highway 59 are voicing opposition to expanding the existing highway between Lawrence and Ottawa.

A woman who lives near U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence hopes to start a wave of opposition to expanding the highway along its current route between Lawrence and Ottawa.

``Most everyone from where I live to Ottawa on the west side of the road doesn't want it expanded,'' said Bonnie McConnell-Smith, who is circulating the petition. She lives near the junction of U.S. Highways 59 and 56.

Smith said Monday that 18 people have signed the petition. She added that only three landowners on the west side of the highway, where she has circulated the survey, have declined to sign.

``Hopefully, before the week is over I will have reached everybody (on both sides),'' she said.

An engineering consultant for KDOT estimates 35 homes would be displaced if the current road is widened to four lanes.

The petition represents the first organized opposition to expanding the current highway, which is one of two options the Kansas Department of Transportation has proposed.

McConnell-Smith and other residents who live along the highway said they don't want it expanded because they will lose their homes and portions of their land.

Residents opposed to expanding the existing highway haven't voiced their opinions until recently because they believed a new four-lane highway would be built a mile east of the current highway, McConnell-Smith said.

``A lot of them don't take the paper and are unaware of possible changes,'' she said.

KDOT is considering two options: The first would widen the existing two-lane road to four lanes; the second would construct a new four-lane road about a mile east of the current highway.

Dozens of farmers and business owners have opposed building a new road. The Franklin County Commission, along with a U.S. Highway 59 task force -- composed of Douglas and Franklin county officials -- has said it also wants the existing highway expanded.

One of the arguments used by opponents of a new highway is that the old road would still be dangerous. It would be turned over to the counties for maintenance, KDOT has said.

``I really feel that once ... they got used to using that (new) route, and once they realized that it was faster and safer, that there would be less traffic on (the current) 59,'' McConnell-Smith said.

``I think we are kind of the silent majority,'' said Al Whitacre, who lives about 2.5 miles north of Ottawa and doesn't want the existing highway expanded. But he added, ``We're definitely starting in a hole.''

A decision on which option will be pursued is expected by the end of the year. KDOT officials also could come up with additional alternatives, they said.

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

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