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Archive for Wednesday, August 1, 2001

KDOT finds consensus lacking on wetlands

August 1, 2001

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Mike Rees says he hasn't seen much support for plans to offset damage to wetlands caused by construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway. As a result, he said Tuesday, such mitigation efforts might be pared back to meet only minimum requirements.

"To date, I've been unable to garner any support for the mitigation concepts," said Rees, chief counsel of the Kansas Department of Transportation, told the Lawrence City Commission.

Rees presented commissioners with a series of maps Tuesday night. One included a proposal to shift Louisiana Street west and Haskell Avenue east, both south of 31st Street, to create new wetlands to make up for any destruction to the Baker Wetlands when the SLT is completed east of Iowa Street.

Federal rules require newly created wetlands to cover 1.5 times the area of wetlands destroyed by such construction, Rees said. KDOT's proposal covers more than the required area, he said, but it hasn't caught on.

"I would much prefer the expanded mitigation concept," Rees said. "But if we're unable to get any support, then we'll probably submit the minimum requirement."

Rees said a public meeting is scheduled Aug. 8 to discuss the mitigation concepts for possible trafficway routes. No other information on the meeting was available.

A route for the trafficway has been sought since 1985, when county commissioners announced plans for the road. City and state officials see it as key to alleviating traffic in southern Lawrence.

The proposed bypass would connect Kansas Highway 10 on the city's east side with Interstate 70 northwest of Lawrence. The western leg of the trafficway has been finished and terminates at U.S. Highway 59 in southern Lawrence.

Also Tuesday, Rees:

l Told commissioners the SLT's role in reducing 23rd Street traffic might be reduced as a justification for building the trafficway.

New computer models indicate the SLT might not relieve too much 23rd Street traffic, Rees said although it would "bleed off" traffic from other streets drivers use to avoid 23rd. And, Rees said, helping local traffic may not be a legal justification to use state highway dollars.

That riled Mayor Mike Rundle.

"To hear 23rd Street is no longer part of the picture for this takes me aback a little bit," he said.

Rees said final computer models will be available at the end of August. At that time, he said he expected a clearer picture should emerge.

"The extent to which the trafficway will alleviate local traffic concerns hasn't been quantified yet," he said.

l Asked commissioners to say where they want interchanges between the SLT and Lawrence streets.

"It's not that we're asking the city government to take any formal action to recommend an alignment," Rees said. "But your input is necessary."

Commissioner Sue Hack called for a study session with the Douglas County Commission.

"I think it's important we get on board and be a part of the process," she said.

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