Archive for Sunday, September 25, 2005

Official touts new bridge as traffic solution

Idea derided as SLT diversion

September 25, 2005


City Commissioner David Schauner can envision the day when a $100 million bridge spans the Kansas River somewhere just east of Lawrence.

"It is apparent that our road network and our highway network between Lawrence and Kansas City is sort of strangling," Schauner said. "We need better connections."

But to Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson, Schauner's vision sounds more like a hallucination.

"I think the idea is absolute nonsense," Johnson said. "I think it is an idea or a scheme thought up by someone to divert attention from completing the South Lawrence Trafficway. There is no basis for belief that this project will ever happen."

Schauner admits the bridge would allow officials to "rethink" the trafficway issue. But he concedes the project isn't on any approved plans by the Kansas Department of Transportation or the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

The benefits of the bridge, though, are obvious, Schauner said. It would create a new connection between Kansas Highway 10 and Interstate 70. And it would provide a new route for motorists to travel between Topeka and southern Johnson County, which has been a major objective of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

A motorist hands a toll ticket to a collector at the West Lawrence exit of the Kansas Turnpike on Friday afternoon.  Some city commissioners are urging the state to think about more toll roads or toll bridges in order to fund more roads.

A motorist hands a toll ticket to a collector at the West Lawrence exit of the Kansas Turnpike on Friday afternoon. Some city commissioners are urging the state to think about more toll roads or toll bridges in order to fund more roads.

Intriguing idea

Johnson said the community should keep its efforts focused on the trafficway because construction is already two-thirds complete, and a federal permit has been issued to build the road through the Baker Wetlands. Local leaders now are waiting for KDOT officials to garner the necessary funding and fend off an all but certain lawsuit from environmentalists once work begins.

"I would say we're moving, albeit ever so slowly, towards the completion of the eastern leg of the trafficway," Johnson said. "I think it is just inevitable."

KDOT leaders are somewhere in the middle of this debate. Terry Heidner, director of planning and development for KDOT, said the idea was intriguing.

"It is certainly not on anybody's radar in terms of any construction dollars or even active planning," Heidner said. "But there are people here, like myself, who believe it needs to be thought about. So it is not like we're oblivious to the idea."

It's certain to be an expensive idea, though. Heidner said it was difficult to estimate a cost for the bridge but said it would easily be tens of millions of dollars and could approach $100 million.

Toll talk

Schauner agreed that the project would take a "boat-load" of money. Funding could be raised, he said, using tolls.

"In a day when everybody is looking to keep taxes down, it makes sense to me to look for alternative financing," Schauner said. "The one way that makes the most sense to me is to let the user pay."

Those users, he noted, would include out-of-state drivers.

"Kansans are going to have to pay for roads one way or the other," Schauner said. "Why not let people from outside the state pay part of the freight?"

But Johnson suggested that the vast majority of traffic on the bridge would be local. He said a more likely scenario would be for the state to seek greater amounts of local tax dollars to help design and build the project.

"That would mean millions of dollars of local money spent in the development phase of this project, and that really isn't going to happen," Johnson said.

Heidner said both men probably are right to a degree.

The state must find new ways to pay for roads as gasoline tax revenues become stagnant, he said, and tolls are among the options. But few locations have enough traffic to justify that method, he said.

Schauner isn't sure how far his idea will fly.

"I'm saying it is time to have the conversation on it," he said. "Actually, I think it is past time to have the conversation on it. It seems like it is a no-brainer to me."

- Staff writer Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362.


kessman 12 years ago

should have been done tears ago

bearded_gnome 12 years ago

And, Merrill once said: "the traffic bumps are fun."

gccs14r 12 years ago

Just build the 59 extension to Billtown. That would actually be useful. Do it first and the decision whether to completely close the Lecompton bridge for resurfacing or not becomes easier.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

This is not a new idea, although it's the first time to my knowledge that an elected official has proposed it. But "throwing asphalt" over a river doesn't making any less sense than "throwing asphalt" over wetlands.

Sandman 12 years ago

After 20 years of fighting the SLT, the libs are finally proposing a solution to Lawrence's traffic problems.

Too little, too late.

No surveys, planning, or even much thought has gone in to the East Lawrence bypass. Yet they are throwing it up now as a solution?

You don't just start throwing asphalt on the ground to make a road.

topflight 12 years ago

I thought of this same idea years ago. Dang, i could have been rich.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

KDOT studied many plans. The wetlands route is not the only option available and it is obsolete. This matter could be tied up in court many more years.

The wetlands route will affect the Prairie Park Nature Center to some degree in which more than a million total tax dollars were initially spent. Why wreck this beautiful educational venture and waste tax dollars at the same time?

There is a less expensive SOR option that has not been put on the table. The current plan going through a flood zone requires elevation which is a costly endeavor. Staying SOR and completly out of the wetlands/flood zones requires fewer bridges and connecting to an existing K-10 interchange(#1057) is saving a few million.

Taking a no wetlands route south of the river to interchange 1057 and K10 could take traffic north to I 70 as well using Schauner's bridge idea.

This provides a better bang for the tax buck: A. Services JOCO and Douglas County traffic going to NW Lawrence or Topeka B. Services the Eudora Business Park east of 1057 C. Services East Hills Business Park and the SE Work Center area west of 1057 D. Diverts traffic out around the city as it should E. Keeps the SLT entirely out of the wetlands thus allowing project to move forward. F. HNTB has researched SLT/1057 option but it was never put on the table...Schauner's idea not totally new. H. Reduces traffic substantially on 31st and would provide some 23rd relief as well.

Working with the Kansas Turnpike Authority could save Douglas County taxpayers untold millions of dollars. Building existing SLT plan at any cost at this point in time is simply not prudent use of Douglas County tax dollars and the idea is no longer useful due to growth...the idea is obsolete.

Turnpike fees would pay for the road which is far better than my tax dollars. It is my understanding that Douglas County taxpayers will bear the lions share of this project which is why bringing in the KTA is good economic sense.

The plan above offers a SOR option as well as a route going north that would connect to I-70 at Tonganoxie which would be quicker for those coming from the east going to Topeka etc.

If I-70 connectors were the only option used motorists would be able to travel to the western leg which provides a K10-to K10 to 59.

Bob Johnson is not only a commissioner but also a founder of Douglas County Development Corp....he is a developer.

Former county commissioner Louie McElheney, Jere's father, has suggested two trafficways. Not with my tax dollars.

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years ago

Does anyone remember the East Lawrence bypass? One of it's options included a bridge across the river with a connection at K10 on the south end and Hwy. 24/40 on the north end.

Personally I like the idea of a bridge across the river east of Lawrence. Lawrence needs a better solution to get people in and out of town.

TruthSeeker 12 years ago

The idea of an east bridge connecting K10 to I-70 is one that has been passed around ever since the SLT was thought about in the 60's. The SLT may have been a logicial solution (not necessarily the right solution) to go through the wetlands in the 60's, 70' and maybe early 80's when projected growth was then not that far south. The current plan to go through the wetlands is 40 years out of date. Even if it is built it will not support the CURRENT projected growth south on 59. It only makes sense to move the rest of the leg to be built farther south to provide a way to get western and southern residential traffic to flow east on K10. We also need to look at N1100 to N900 roads as additional east - west trafficways to divert 59 traffic to Olathe.

 Bob Johnson is an individual who does not represent the good of his constituentcy of east Douglas county.  He is out of touch with what is happening and what the needs are for Douglas county as well as Eudora.  He has "hung his hat" on the SLT for years. He puts his fingers in his ears and head on his desk when better common sense ideas come along or when KDOT hits him with facts.  His ego will not allow him to see plans that provide efficient use of funds and project growth of good industry in our area.  He promotes illogical random inefficient growth all over the county (his record speaks for itself - a fact).

Back to the eastern bridge. A connection from K10 to I-70 will provide logical flow of Topeka to Kansas City industrial traffic unwanted within the city (some call it keeping the garbage out of Lawrence).  This can facilitate locating industry in flood planes instead of putting residential - logical land use.  The Lawrence airport can be accessed from K10. A connection of 24 highway and I-70 to K10 can be established. Other industrial zoning will be located around the airport as well as the current east Lawrence industrial, intelligent planning will be projected in those low lying areas which will save dollars because land will be zoned for industry and it will be less expensive to develop than if it were projected for residential.

These ideas are not Douglas County's responsibility alone. Franklin and Leavenworth have a stake in this also. We need to work with our neighboring counties and get their cooperation to get GOOD planning done. I believe we all want good planning which is what I read alot from posts on this forum. As I've posted before just look at an area map

Jamesaust 12 years ago

Maybe the $223 million "bridge to nowhere" to be built in Alaska could just be moved here? The only question is: does Kansas have D.C. contacts with enough gravitas to lasso the dough? Perhaps if Brownback spent less time holding forth the virtues of ethanol in small town Iowa he'd have time to see that Kansas got more than bus subsidies for Wichita out of a 1/4 trillion dollar transportation boondoggle.

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