Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

Consultants’ report draws concerns

September 6, 2001


Fairness questions are being raised about a South Lawrence Trafficway survey commissioned by the state highway department.

The survey was done last month by Colorado consultants hired by the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT is trying to determine a viable route for the trafficway's uncompleted eastern leg that is broadly accepted by the community.

Here's the tentative agenda today for The Osprey Group meeting:5:30 p.m. Introductions, review goals, identify issues and public comment.6:15 p.m. Brief presentation and discussion: Current status and new Information about the South Lawrence Trafficway alternatives.6:45 p.m. Facilitated discussion: Issues and concerns of the stakeholder group.8:30 p.m. Next steps, critique of meeting.

In an effort to learn more about community attitudes toward the proposed road, consultants from the Osprey Group interviewed 30 area residents with ties to groups involved in the long-running trafficway controversy.

But critics say the consultants talked with too few of the trafficway's opponents, including the Wetlands Preservation Organization, one of the road's main foes.

"It seems really strange you would identify 16 primary stakeholder (groups) and only interview 12 of them," said Joe Jarvis, a Kansas University student who has attended some of the public forums about the trafficway. "It seems overwhelmingly against the environmental groups, and it's just absurd you wouldn't include the (Wetlands Preservation Organization) from the start."

The WPO, which includes Haskell Indian Nations University students, faculty and alumni, has fought a trafficway that would cut through and destroy the Baker Wetlands.

KDOT is trying to complete the eastern leg of the trafficway, which would connect Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence with Interstate 70 northwest of Lawrence. The western 9 miles of the road are completed, but the eastern third remains only in the planning stage.

John Huyler, Osprey co-founder, said he tried to reach the WPO, but learned the group's president was out of the state for the summer. He said he and fellow consultant Dennis Donald only were in town for two days to conduct the interviews.

"We tried to meet with other groups, but because of the vicissitudes of August, we were unable to meet with everyone," Huyler said.

Anna Wilson, a WPO spokeswoman, said a Haskell faculty representative had agreed to meet with the group instead, but Osprey never showed.

She said a WPO member will speak on behalf of the group at today's public meeting with Osprey.

"Yes, it's good we're being included, but it's taken too long to do that," Wilson said.

Other groups not interviewed before the first survey report results were publicized were Kansas University, Sierra Club and Douglas-Franklin County Coalition of Concerned Citizens.

Carey Maynard-Moody, president of the Wakarusa Chapter of the Sierra Club, said she couldn't make the previous interview session, but she will participate in today's roundtable discussion.

Osprey has organized a second stakeholder meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at Spring Hill Suites by Marriott in the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza. Huyler said the stakeholder groups will be asked to identify which road alignments they prefer and talk about their concerns.

"We really look at this as an opportunity for the group to go broad and deep," he said. "We really want to dedicate most of the time to the group."

Jarvis, who has been following the trafficway issue for a couple of years, said he's concerned about the Osprey Group moving too fast.

"It seems like they're just trying to railroad this thing through," he said.

Huyler said Osprey will write a summary report of the meeting, which will be available for the public in two weeks. If the group wants to meet again, he said it can be arranged. He said he plans to ask the group whether the community meetings have been worthwhile.

KDOT hopes to complete the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the uncompleted leg of the road next month.

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