The city and the Kansas Department of Transportation are butting heads again this time about a $17.9 million plan to widen Sixth Street between Wakarusa Drive and Kansas Highway 10.
Plans unveiled Wednesday include a long median along Sixth Street east of Wakarusa Drive. KDOT officials say the median is needed to properly "stack" the huge volume of traffic anticipated for the intersection. But Lawrence city commissioners say the KDOT plan unacceptably blocks left-turn access to a driveway that leads to People's Bank and other businesses on the southeast corner of the intersection.
"We need that left turn," Commissioner Marty Kennedy told KDOT officials Wednesday.
State officials were firm.
"I'd be happy to take a look at it," said Chris Huffman, a KDOT representative. "But I'm not going to sit here and say it's going to change anybody's mind."
The construction project, slated to begin by winter 2003, will widen the street to four lanes plus a large median with two left turn lanes at the approaches to major intersections. The city will pay $5.58 million of the tab.
Huffman told commissioners the design was based on forecasts of heavy traffic through the Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive intersection. Realistically, he said, even more vehicles can be expected.
"We tend to lowball the estimates," he said.
But even the conservative traffic estimates showed need to limit access to and from Sixth Street, he said.
"The more things you have plugged into the same socket, the more likely it is to overload," Huffman said. "Same process here."
Commissioners said a compromise is needed so businesses aren't hurt.
"We need it open," Kennedy insisted. "How do we get it open?"
Tom Shafer, another KDOT representative, said the agency could comply with the city's wishes if the city agrees to take ownership and maintenance responsibility for the road, which is also U.S. Highway 40.
Commissioners said that proposal was unacceptable.
"We definitely need it built," Kennedy said. "We're not going to hold up the project, but we need a compromise."
Huffman said he would look at alternatives, but he left commissioners with a warning.
"Nothing we do on this project will be painless," Huffman said. "Everything will aggravate somebody."