To the editor:
About 20 years ago, another "dangerous" two-lane highway, old K-10, was abandoned in favor of building a parallel route four-lane freeway. That freeway, new K-10, runs the same distance going to Kansas City that the proposed U.S. 59 freeway would cover between Lawrence and Ottawa.
New K-10 has no Baldwin Junction-style highway crossing, no private driveways and just one county road crossing. Yet annually on K-10, traffic accidents kill and injure many people, causing millions in property damage and medical bills.
Typical freeway behavior and misfortune account for this. Drivers tailgate, speed, fail to yield right-of-way coming down entry ramps, drive too fast for conditions, make improper lane changes, go the wrong way, hit deer.
Building a U.S. 59 freeway intensifies environmental damage to the Kansas River (a massive volume of sand gets dredged to make the concrete and asphalt). Once completed, the freeway triggers a development explosion in rural southern Douglas and northern Franklin counties (like K-10 is doing in eastern Douglas and western Johnson counties). More people living south of Lawrence can drive faster to KU games and the NASCAR racetrack. Pressure grows on Haskell elders and federal officials to approve the SLT/wetlands route.
I wish the Douglas County commissioners, KDOT officials and other boosters would admit that economic development is the rocket fuel propelling the U.S. 59 freeway scheme. Their "public-safety need" arguments for abandoning old U.S. 59 are bogus; driver behavior and the number of accidents on K-10 refute any such claim.