Plans for a new turnpike interchange in southern Leavenworth County east of Lawrence are moving along well, according to Leavenworth County officials.
And that has officials from Lawrence, Eudora and Douglas County feeling out of the loop.
"If this is going to happen, we need to be involved because it could have huge implications on traffic movement in the county," Douglas County Commissioner Charles Jones said.
City and county leaders say they want to get up to speed quickly on the talks between Leavenworth County officials and the Kansas Turnpike Authority because a new exit could push significant traffic into Eudora seeking a way onto Kansas Highway 10.
One possible site for the interchange - which hasn't been approved by KTA - is at the intersection of the turnpike and Leavenworth County Road 1. That could have major consequences for Douglas County because County Road 1 turns into County Route 1061 in Douglas County, which goes through the middle of downtown Eudora after crossing a bridge spanning the Kansas River that has seen better days.
Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle said he hopes the discussions begin to include more than just Leavenworth County and turnpike leaders. He said Eudora has much to gain from the project, if it is done correctly.
"I think it would be a great boon to Eudora and could help this whole area," Pyle said.
But Pyle said Eudora ideally would want traffic routed along a new road instead of through its downtown and then east a block to Church Street, which connects with K-10.
Pyle said that new road could require a new Kansas River bridge, which could cost upward of $100 million to build.
Leavenworth nor KTA leaders have been contemplating a project nearly that large.
Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke said Wednesday that Leavenworth County has studied possibly improving County Road 1 from U.S. Highway 24/40 south of Tonganoxie to Kansas Highway 32 northeast of Lawrence.
That project is estimated at $17 million. The turnpike interchange would cost another $8 million, Oroke said.
Lawrence City Commissioner David Schauner has been advocating for the state to build a new Kansas River bridge somewhere east of Lawrence to connect K-10 to I-70. But Schauner said he would like Lawrence leaders to have more of a say in where the road should be located.
"I would really like to see it closer to Lawrence," Schauner said. "I would like to see it out around Noria Road myself. But I think this represents a moment and we need to seize the moment and start thinking outside the box."
Any efforts by Lawrence officials to push for a new road could be controversial, though. Previously, when Schauner has brought up the idea of a new connection between I-70 and K-10, it has been criticized as an effort to attract attention away from completing the controversial South Lawrence Trafficway.
But Jones said the community needs to be involved in the Leavenworth discussions because there's the possibility that a new interchange could funnel traffic through eastern Douglas County, wanted or not.
"I'm not sure it is a great idea to route traffic through downtown Eudora," Jones said.
Lawrence Mayor Boog Highberger said the entire issue pointed to the need for planning staff members from the entire region to come together for a transportation summit where these issues could be discussed.
Oroke said he thought Leavenworth County officials were interested in involving Douglas County in their conversations with KTA.
"I think we need to become engaged in a dialogue with Douglas County and Eudora, and it could probably involve the city of Lawrence, too," Oroke said. "It could be a real enhancement to Lawrence, particularly if they don't get the trafficway done."