The state highway department's top attorney has written a letter to Mayor Jim Henry telling him the city has no remaining interest in the South Lawrence Trafficway agreement that once wed city, county and state road builders to the controversial road's completion.
Using formal language Kansas Department of Transportation Chief Counsel Michael Rees informed Henry that the city's role in the SLT is over.
"The city of Lawrence's involvement was incidental," Rees wrote, "and the agreement as it relates to the city has been performed. Thus, the city of Lawrence has no remaining participatory interest founded in the (SLT) agreement."
Rees' notice does no more than restate the city's own expressed interest in abandoning the SLT in favor of a joint city-county improvement of 31st Street.
But Rees also informed the mayor that "SLT will be maintained as a KDOT project available as a vehicle to express KDOT's commitment" to "provide for the state's highway system."
In other words, KDOT is proceeding on its own, with or without the city's blessing or participation.
Rees' letter informed the mayor that KDOT will continue its investigation of possible American Indian burial sites in the Baker Wetlands and other studies that might advance completion of the SLT.
In 1990, Douglas County received state and federal approval for the SLT as part of a state highway system enhancement project. That agreement was amended in 1996 when the trafficway's western leg was completed and federal monies were exhausted. City officials also signed off on the agreement.
"We're still going to preserve our interests by building the trafficway somewhere," Rees wrote the mayor.
Henry declined comment until he has received the letter and had time to read it.
County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he doubted the letter would change the mind of County Commission Chairman Tom Taul, who wants to meet with Secretary of Transportation Dean Carlson to discuss the various agencies road building intentions. Taul could not be reached for comment.