Lawrence City Commissioner Erv Hodges wants the city to take a more active role in the ongoing debate about the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
"I don't think we as a commission can sit idly by and wait for someone else to do the job," Hodges said during Tuesday's city commission meeting.
Hodges has asked that a work group be put together to study the traffic problems in south Lawrence and provide input and information on possible solutions to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Hodges said he wanted the work group to have fewer than a dozen members and include a wide range of community interests, including Haskell Indian Nations University, Douglas County and Lawrence. He said he hopes city staff will have a prospective member list before the Sept. 5 city commission meeting.
Before Tuesday's commission meeting, Hodges met with KDOT Chief Counsel Mike Rees, Mayor Jim Henry and city staff members.
First unofficially and now officially, Rees has been pushing to revive the eastern leg of the trafficway. He has put forward the ideas of completing it along 38th Street or improving 31st Street to be a connecting link in the state highway system.
Rees said Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Dean Carlson restated his support for a 38th Street trafficway.
"He intends to try to get it done," Rees said.
A public meeting is being hosted by KDOT from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds to discuss a study of the 38th Street corridor.
Rees' and KDOT's efforts have not impressed Commissioner Mike Rundle.
"I'm kind of puzzled at why the state is coming in here trying to solve a local problem without us having initiated it," Rundle said. "I guess I have problems with the whole process."
Hodges said the city needs to capitalize on the state's continued interest while it still can.
"You have a governor who is completing his work in two years. You have a (transportation) secretary who will probably be leaving," Hodges said. "The next group at the state level may not consider this a priority."
Commissioner David Dunfield said it is important not to rush the process this time.
"Trying to go fast has caused problems in the past, and they will cause them again," Dunfield said.
Hodges said the results of the city's inaction can be seen on Harper Street, Haskell Avenue, Barker, 19th and 15th streets and all the other city streets that are becoming congested with through traffic.
"These are city neighborhood streets, and they were not intended for highway traffic," Hodges said.
The situation will only get worse as the city grows, he said.
"Where will we be if we don't fix the problem 20 years from now?" Hodges said. "A beautiful house with no doors."