The view of the South Lawrence Trafficway is different in Washington, D.C., than it is from City Hall.
Five of the six members of the state's congressional delegation have signed a letter to federal regulators supporting a 32nd Street route for the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway. That's despite the Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission sending letters opposing the route because it would run through the Baker Wetlands.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who has been one of the stronger supporters of the bypass project, said completing the trafficway was critical to the state's plan to create a "Kansas Technology Corridor."
"We must look to the future and make this investment to help create the bio-science and high-tech corridor from Manhattan to Topeka to Lawrence to Kansas City," Roberts said in a prepared statement.
Rep. Dennis Moore, the lone Democrat in the Kansas federal delegation, was the only member not to sign the letter. Moore represents the 3rd District, which covers an eastern portion of Douglas County, including the proposed trafficway completion route.
Show of support
Roberts also said the Douglas County Commission, K-10 Assn., Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Kansas State University, city of Tonganoxie, city of Overland Park, city of Lenexa, Olathe Chamber of Commerce and Kansas Association of Realtors had submitted letters of support to the Federal Highway Administration, which is reviewing the appropriate route for the road. The cities of Baldwin and Eudora also have submitted letters endorsing the 32nd Street route.
Supporters of the trafficway said the letters showed the sentiments expressed by the City Commission and Planning Commission were not consensus opinions.
More about the trafficway
- 6News video: SLT gains congressional backing
- Anti-SLT letter going to the feds (05-25-06)
- 6News video: Tonganoxie City Council in favor of wetlands SLT route (05-24-06)
- Proposal would abandon trafficway (05-20-06)
- Outgoing Baker president says 32nd Street route still makes sense (05-20-06)
- Alternative to the Eastern Leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway (.doc)
- City opposes 32nd Street route (05-17-06)
- Letter outlines officials' opposition to SLT route (05-13-06)
"What it does is help express to the Federal Highway Administration and to the public at large that there is broad support for the completion of the trafficway, and for completing it on the 32nd Street route," said Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson. "I believe the need for this road is becoming more evident every day."
City Commissioner David Schauner - one of the three on the five-member commission who agreed to send a letter opposing the 32nd Street route - said the fact the congressional delegation thinks differently did not sway his opinion.
"There are only five of us elected to represent the city of Lawrence," Schauner said. "The majority of city commissioners believe there is a better route. I appreciate people having different opinions. But for good or ill, they are not the elected representatives of the city of Lawrence."
The city commission split 3-2 on the issue.
'Hot and heavy'
The Federal Highway Administration accepted public comment through Wednesday on the project. The agency must approve a route for the long-stalled road in order for federal funds to be spent on the project.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 studied the project and determined that a 32nd Street route was the best way to complete the trafficway, which now stretches from Interstate 70 west of town to U.S. Highway 59 at the southern edge of Lawrence.
The Federal Highway Administration was accepting comment on whether it should adopt the corps' completed study or conduct one of its own.
Mike Bowen, a division administrator with the Federal Highway Administration, estimated the agency had received about 500 comments, significantly more than the 10 to 100 comments it normally receives for a road project.
"What I can tell you is that they have come in hot and heavy over the last few days," Bowen said.
Now the agency will review the comments and issue a decision. Bowen, though, said he didn't have a timeline for completing the process. He said a tally of letters for and against had not been made.
A spokeswoman for Moore said the congressman was out of the country and unavailable to comment on why he didn't sign the letter put together by Roberts.
The congressional letter also made no mention of Kansas University supporting the project, though it did say Kansas State University sent a letter of support.
Todd Cohen, a spokesman for KU, said KU did not send a letter supporting or opposing the project.
"Our position has been to leave that to the bodies that have jurisdiction over it, and that is not us," Cohen said.