Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

City commissioners want different route for SLT

April 22, 2006


City commissioners have pledged to work on getting the stalled South Lawrence Trafficway project moving again - albeit in a different direction than other local leaders have envisioned.

City commissioners during their goal-setting session for 2006 made it a top priority to become more active in lobbying to build the uncompleted South Lawrence Trafficway south of the Wakarusa River rather than along an approved 32nd Street route through the Baker Wetlands.

"I think we have the foundation for a consensus that we've never had before," then-Mayor Boog Highberger said about the roadway issue, which has been debated for two decades. "I think the people who want the road most strongly don't care where it goes, and I think people who have traditionally opposed the road now recognize that we need a new east-west route in south Lawrence."

But the sentiment is far from unanimous. Two of the five city commissioners - Mike Amyx and Sue Hack - did not support the city goal. And the idea has drawn criticism from Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson. The County Commission in 2001 endorsed a 32nd Street route when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Department of Transportation asked for comment on the proposed route. The corps ultimately gave the route approval.

The City Commission during that public comment period chose to take no position on the route. Johnson said that for the city to begin lobbying now would be inappropriate.

"The thing that irritates me is that now someone wants to suggest that the City Commission should weigh in on this, but people forget that they chose not to," Johnson said. "And it is almost preposterous to think that some vote by a local governing body at this point is going to make the corps think they made a mistake. The corps took its job seriously, and they have gathered a lot of information."

The new city position comes at a time when the 32nd Street route has received a bit of a federal boost. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts successfully included $1.5 million in funding in a federal transportation bill to spur activity on the project. State officials have estimated that about $110 million will be needed to complete the bypass, which would connect the Kansas Turnpike west of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence. The western portion of the road is built, but dead ends at U.S. Highway 59 in south Lawrence.

KDOT hasn't announced a firm plan for how it would spend the new trafficway funding, but there have been hopes that the $1.5 million would be used to get enough work started to spur a lawsuit from opponents of the road. Supporters of the roadway have said they need to get the promised legal battle done and over with before they can start lobbying for funding for the remaining $110 million. But since no work has been under way on the road project, environmentalists who oppose the project have had no reason to file a lawsuit.

Opponents of the roadway have said they are watching the situation closely and are still adamantly opposed to running the road through the wetlands. Bob Eye, a Topeka attorney who represents opponents, called Roberts' appropriation "good money after bad."

"I think their zeal to pave the wetlands is misguided and ultimately contrary to the community's best interests," Eye said.

The 32nd Street route would run just south of the existing 31st Street. The project as approved would include a rebuilding of 31st Street to carry local traffic and would pay Baker University - the owner of the wetlands - about $8.5 million to create and maintain 300 acres of new wetlands in the area to replace the approximately 65 to 100 acres that would be disturbed.

Baker leaders have supported the plan.


LivedinLawrence4Life 12 years, 2 months ago

If this was a new road to a casino, would there be as much opposition? Make it a toll road and use the money locally to replace and expand "wetlands" and "sacred ground" elsewhere.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

Why not move the trafficway just a little ways south of the river, where the next big expansion of the city will occur, anyway? The car addicts get their road, Haskell gets their stolen property returned to them-- it's win-win.

leftwingfarmboy 12 years, 2 months ago

The SLT is the anti Christ. If you don't believe me go look closely at Wal Mart's door greeters...

Mike Blur 12 years, 2 months ago

I remember telling Richie Kennedy, a staunch supporter of a wetlands route, on back in 1997--nearly 10 years ago--(back when larryville was readable) that a SOTW route was best for travelers, developers and Indians, as well as Richie's dad Marty, then-mayor of Lawrence and a building contractor supplier (Kennedy Glass, anyone?) and get started on it right away. I think between now and then, the cost of the projected road has nearly doubled, no matter which route is chosen. The absolute worst case scenario is when the stubborn buttheads get their wetlands route, and then suddenly realize that a SOTW route is better and more profitable for developers. What would happen then? A SOTW route will then be built, and the original 32nd street SLT will be the disused white elephant of Lawrence, KS.

cowboy 12 years, 2 months ago

Bozo and all your friends , take a drive out past the wetlands and you wil find people , yeah real people living there , who have been there for decades , horses , turkeys , deer , homesteads , families. Yeah it makes a lot of sense to save a damn frog and move all the families south of the river. You are idiots !

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago


"The absolute worst case scenario is when the stubborn buttheads get their wetlands route, and then suddenly realize that a SOTW route is better and more profitable for developers."

That is the plan as of now. The development community wants both roads which just goes to show the SOR is an acceptable plan.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

There are a lot of people who agree with you on the no-build option, Cowboy-- and so far they are winning. I guess it's never too late to jump on a bandwagon.

Rhoen 12 years, 2 months ago

Let's leave the SLT the way it is now ... a nice metaphor for the stalemate of equally matched, butted heads.

If Lawrence were truly a "community," everyone's hopes and fears for this particular piece of ground and what it means to every segment of the population would be solicited, shared in a public forum, and a workable solution found.

Why not look at the history of this stalemate and interpret the meaning of the the last few years of no-progress. The stalled SLT is one of the material local metaphors for a community in the process of dis-integration.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

I don't think it's a metaphor at all. I think it's just an indicator of whether or not this community is willing to finally accept Haskell, its students, staff and alumni as full members.

Will their lands and culture finally get the same respect that other institutions and sub-communities do, or will they again just be a resource that allows the recently constructed bedroom community to the west and south find the couple minutes of convenience a day that they deem as more important?

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