Efforts by Rep. Dennis Moore to include $800,000 in federal funding for an eastward extension of 31st Street received strong support from city commissioners Monday.
The federal funding was included in the same transportation bill approved Friday that earmarked $1.5 million for the uncompleted South Lawrence Trafficway.
While the trafficway funding sparked concern among some commissioners, the 31st Street funding did not.
"I was a little surprised, but the construction of 31st Street is something we're going to have to do. We can use that money."
Exactly how the city will use the money, though, is still an open question. Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works, said there are no designs or firm cost estimates for the project. He said typically it costs about $3 million to $4 million per mile to build a new city street. That means it would be upward of a $10 million project to extend 31st Street east of Haskell Avenue to Kansas Highway 10 near Noria Road.
But Soules said it would be difficult to extend the road until the fate of the South Lawrence Trafficway is known. Current plans call for the existing portion of 31st Street to be moved several hundred feet to the south, which would affect how an eastward extension would be built, Soules said. The Kansas Department of Transportation also has committed to pay for many of the costs to improve the existing 31st Street as part of the trafficway project.
Soules said he would want to explore whether the money could be used for other portions of 31st Street, such as a $1.8 million rebuilding of the road between Louisiana Street and Ousdahl Drive scheduled for 2008.
Keith Browning, director of public works for Douglas County, said if the money needs to be spent on extending the road it could be used to purchase right-of-way or do preliminary design work. Any extension of the road likely would be a joint city-county project.
City Commissioner David Schauner said he also would like to see whether the state could become a partner in the project. He said the state could become involved by removing the K-10 designation from 23rd Street and placing it on the new 31st Street. Involving the state in the project could make the project more financially feasible.
"It will be an expensive project, but I think the cost of doing nothing will be pretty high, too," Schauner said.
A 2001 report commissioned by the city and the county determined that 31st Street would need to be extended by 2012 to handle expected traffic volumes in the area. The study said the new 31st Street would be needed regardless of whether the South Lawrence Trafficway is completed.