Douglas County Commission Chairman Tom Taul said Monday that he doesn't want to alienate the Kansas Department of Transportation from discussions of proposed improvements for 31st Street.
Taul, during Monday morning's county commission meeting, said he wants to set up a meeting with Secretary of Transportation Dean Carlson to make sure everyone knows what the other side is doing.
Taul said the goal is to make the project solely a local effort, but he wants KDOT to help the county and city find a connecting link with Kansas Highway 10 in the future.
"My main intent is to see 31st Street improved," Taul said.
Lawrence City Commissioner Erv Hodges agrees. Monday afternoon Hodges said that he and Taul will try to meet soon with Carlson to discuss the project.
Mike Rees, KDOT's chief attorney, said he thinks the conversation with Carlson would be beneficial for the city, county and KDOT.
"We have a different interest in moving traffic east of Lawrence and west of Lawrence, and if it benefits the city of Lawrence, then that's all the better," Rees said. "We are going to pursue a state highway."
He said the state agency still is looking at alternate ways to complete the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway. KDOT also has hired a Colorado firm to study the possibility of Haskell student graves in the Baker Wetlands. The study should be completed early next year, he said.
Unlike Taul, County Commissioner Charles Jones said he was skeptical of any involvement of KDOT with or near the 31st Street project. He said if KDOT gets involved, it raises the question of the road being a de facto SLT, which the courts have ruled against.
"If we're going to do it at all, we're going to have to do it alone," he said.
On Dec. 20, a group of city and county officials are scheduled to meet and will select an engineering firm to conduct a study of the 31st Street project. Four companies submitted bids for the job, said Keith Browning, the county's director of public works.