Douglas County commissioners heard Wednesday from people on both sides of a freeway proposed to replace U.S. Highway 59.
Douglas County officials were told Wednesday to expect a letter soon from the Kansas Department of Transportation about a proposal to build a freeway to replace U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence.
The letter is supposed to address traffic projections and maintenance costs, two questions raised by local government officials during a recent meeting in Topeka with Dean Carlson, Kansas transportation secretary.
But Douglas County Commissioner Tom Taul said he doesn't expect the letter to answer all of his questions about the proposal.
The Douglas and Franklin county commissions along with the city governments of Baldwin, Ottawa and Lawrence have been asked by KDOT to pick one of two routes for a new freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa.
"I don't even feel like I should respond," Taul said Wednesday during a commission meeting. "I think that was a foolish question."
Wednesday's meeting was attended by about 45 people, 27 of whom stood in opposition to the state's freeway proposal.
Commissioner Charles Jones was absent, so commissioners put off substantive discussion of the topic.
They also avoided discussion of a draft letter addressed to Carlson, containing a few more questions and asking for an extension to a KDOT-imposed Jan. 15 deadline for a route decision.
The commissioners did agree to put off a decision until after a Jan. 6 forum being planned by Franklin-Douglas Counties Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a group of freeway opponents.
Taul said he wants more information about projected accident rates on the new freeway and the existing highway, which is to be turned over to the county. He also wants to know how many county roads will be closed by the freeway project and to how much an expressway would cost as opposed to an interstate-type highway.
Taul said that, in the end, he may agree with the state that a freeway about a mile east of the current road is the best option.
"Just show me why," Taul said.
Commissioners heard comments from 10 people in attendance.
Newton McCluggage, whose land and home are in the path of the eastern alignment, said KDOT has put the county in a bad position.
"I think KDOT has presented you with two terrible choices," he said. "I don't know why Douglas County should be the fall guy for KDOT."
Patricia Brady, who lives along the current road, told the commissioners to think of more than just the land and natural areas that might be lost to the project.
"Land is precious. Nature is " precious," she said. "I think " families are very precious, too."
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