City and county officials will work together to get the state to spend $9 million still set aside for the South Lawrence Trafficway on other projects in and around Lawrence.
With the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway on the verge of being shelved, Lawrence and Douglas County officials might be able to spend remaining money set aside for the trafficway on other projects.
That is, if they can come up with a use for the $9 million that will satisfy Kansas Transportation Secretary Dean Carlson.
"That's a decision the secretary has to make," said Warren Sick, KDOT assistant secretary and state transportation engineer.
The $9 million came up during meetings Monday between Carlson and Lawrence and Douglas County officials.
"He didn't say 'no' and he didn't say 'yes,'" County Commissioner Tom Taul said. "He said they would sure listen to any proposals that we want to bring to them."
Any proposal would be considered separate from the 10-year, $1 billion system enhancement plan being compiled by KDOT, Sick said.
So far, state, county and federal governments have spent $53 million to complete nine of 14.5 miles for the bypass, originally planned to loop around the western and southern sides of Lawrence.
About $9 million in state money had remained dedicated to the project, which was dealt a serious blow earlier this month when the Haskell Indian Nations University regents voted to oppose the completion of the trafficway along 31st Street. Without Haskell approval, completion of the eastern third of the trafficway won't proceed.
"Right now the South Lawrence Trafficway is a dead issue," Sick said.
That means the $9 million "is really not earmarked for anybody," he said.
The trafficway's demise will cause the state to rethink all its plans for traffic in northeast Kansas, particularly between Kansas City and Topeka, Sick said.
"Any time you do something and it's depending on a chain and one of the links becomes weakened or broken, you are going to have to go back and say 'what are we going to do now?'" he said.
Lawrence and Douglas County officials hope to have a voice in that decision. They are planning a joint meeting in the next couple of weeks to discuss the possibilities.
Projects that might be considered candidates for the $9 million include:
- Improvement of Sixth Street west to the trafficway.
- An interchange on the trafficway at 15th Street.
- A bypass that would connect Kansas Highway 10 with the Kansas Turnpike, including a new bridge over the Kansas River east of Lawrence, perhaps along Noria Road.
Lawrence Mayor Erv Hodges said he would like to see the Sixth Street improvements.
Taul said he wants more information about the eastern bypass in particular before picking one. He said it was important the choice was a realistic one.
"If we push that eastern roadway can we get an interchange on the turnpike?" Taul said. "If you can't get on the turnpike there it's useless."
A KDOT announcement scheduled for Nov. 9 regarding its plans for expansion to four lanes of U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence also might play a role.
Whatever the outcome, the city and county together will address the future of east-west traffic in Lawrence, Hodges said.
"The county has taken the lead to this point," Hodges said. "I think the city really has to step up to the plate and take some of that load off them."
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