The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is forming a committee to review state proposals for the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
"Here comes an event ... that is perhaps the single most important planning event in this community in the next 10 years," Commissioner David Burress said Wednesday night.
Commission Chairman Ron Durflinger will make appointments to the committee drawn from the commission and diverse segments of the community prior to its first meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
Creation of the committee was not on the planning commission's agenda Wednesday night. Burress asked for the action, prompted by a Wednesday morning meeting in which Douglas County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson asked city, county and school district elected officials to take a more active role in influencing the Kansas Department of Transportation's decision on placement and access to the uncompleted eastern portion of the trafficway.
"The more people we have approaching KDOT and asking questions, the more likely we are to get answers to the questions," Johnson said.
The planning commission is in position to take that role, Planning Director Linda Finger said Wednesday.
"Unless we provide documented, written input, they'll decide the community has no opinion and will do what's best for KDOT," she said. "I think KDOT expects to hear from you, because you're the (metropolitan planning organization.)"
The road is envisioned to connect Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence with the Kansas Turnpike northwest of the city. The western nine miles of the bypass opened in 1996, but controversy over alignment has prevented the trafficway's completion.
KDOT is using a consultant, Osprey Group of Colorado, to solicit opinions from community "stakeholders" that include members of city and county governments. But planners said Wednesday those governments haven't been asked for their corporate input.
"They have identified the stakeholder groups," Durflinger said, "and we're not one of them."
Any Planning Commission recommendations should try to represent the will of the community, Durflinger said.
"For it to be effective at all, it's going to have to show some degree of consensus," he said.
A route for the trafficway has been sought since 1985, when county commissioners announced plans for the road, but KDOT is now in charge of the project. City and state officials see it as key to alleviating traffic in southern Lawrence.
The city and county already have a joint SLT study session with KDOT scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12. Wednesday, school officials said they would join the session, which may be televised to the community.