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Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Communication is key

July 11, 2001

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The public deserves to see all of the information available on proposed routes for a bypass south of Lawrence.

A note to the engineering firm now working with the Kansas Department of Transportation on proposed routes for a southern bypass around Lawrence:

There is no such thing as too much public information about this project.

At a briefing for local officials on Monday, the vice president of HNTB, a Kansas City, Mo., consulting firm hired by KDOT to develop bypass plans, shared 11 possible routes for the road. He noted that these proposed routes "may move and shift and there may be many more." His statement seems to indicate that all possibilities are on the table and that HNTB and KDOT are sincere in their desire to gather public input on the routes.

Hopefully that is the case. The public deserves to have as much information and as many details on these routes as the engineers and the state can provide. An initial brochure outlined five possible routes. With added details about possible access points and connections to U.S. Highway 59, that number has grown to 11 options. Still lacking are cost estimates on the various proposals. Although any alignment of the project presumably will be financed primarily with state and federal funds, the costs are a factor in shaping public opinion.

The HNTB official who visited Lawrence Monday said he had distributed brochures on the project at meetings of various interest groups but had not made them available to the public. City officials correctly told him that was not good enough.

"If you're going to get it out to people, you've got to get it out to all those who are interested in it," said Assistant City Manager Dave Corliss.

Another KDOT-hired consulting firm from Colorado has begun meeting with various "stakeholders" in the bypass project. The stated goal of that part of the project is not to reach consensus on a route, but to involve everyone in the process.

These efforts appear laudable, but they will only succeed if the input is sought aggressively and listened to sincerely. It would be a shame if all of the people asked to participate in this process and express their opinions feel at the conclusion that their input wasn't given full consideration or that the key decisions had been made before the public process began.

A bypass south of the city is important to both local and regional traffic flow. Efforts to build this road have been fraught with misinformation and miscommunications. That needs to change. Hopefully, the current process will be the beginning of the final chapter in the long and frustrating saga of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

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