It's now official: The Lawrence City Commission does not want the South Lawrence Trafficway to go through the Baker Wetlands.
Commissioners on a 3-2 vote agreed to send an official comment letter to federal regulators who are reviewing plans to complete the controversial bypass project along a 32nd Street route, which would run the road through the wetlands adjacent to Haskell Indian Nations University.
"My fear is if this road is built on the 32nd Street route it will open wounds in this community that will take a generation to heal," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said.
Highberger was joined by commissioners Mike Rundle and David Schauner in supporting the letter that will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration, which is accepting written public comments on the road through the end of this month. The agency must give approval to a trafficway route if the project hopes to spend federal funding it has received.
All three of those commissioners, though, said they were open to the idea of the trafficway being built south of the Wakarusa River.
"We want to solve transportation problems, but we want to do so in a way that does not tear this community apart," Rundle said.
Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Sue Hack voted against sending the letter. But Amyx said he would do his mayoral duty and sign the letter, which does not mention the City Commission is split on the issue. Amyx, though, urged his fellow commissioners to begin seriously considering how they want to deal with traffic in the southern part of Lawrence.
More about the trafficway
- 6News video: City to send feds letter opposing 32nd Street alignment
- Letter outlines officials' opposition to SLT route (05-13-06)
- 6News video: City leaders oppose plans for extension of South Lawrence Trafficway (05-12-06)
- City commissioners want different route for SLT (04-22-06)
- New Mayor Mike Amyx seeks to build confidence in City Hall (04-22-06)
- Timeline set for city manager's hiring (04-22-06)
- More about the South Lawrence Trafficway
- More about Mike Wildgen
"Our traffic concerns are not going to go away," Amyx said. "We're going to have pressures from outside this county that are going to add tremendous amounts of traffic. Folks, I'm telling you, it is coming and we don't have anything in the works to handle it."
Amyx said he wanted the City Commission to seriously consider extending 31st Street from Haskell Avenue to County Route 1057, which already has an interchange with Kansas Highway 10.
Commissioners heard from several audience members who strongly supported the city taking a stand against a wetlands route for the trafficway. About 10 members of the public urged commissioners to oppose the wetlands route; only one person spoke in favor of it.
"You guys are setting an example statewide, nationwide by saying 'Let's recognize the value these people place on this land,'" said Michael Contreras Jr., a former Haskell student and leader of a local wetland preservation group who believes the wetlands have major environmental, historical and cultural significance.
Tuesday's action marked the first time the City Commission has made official comments opposing the 32nd Street route. When the route was up for review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001, city commissioners decided not to submit official comments about the proposed 32nd Street route.
The corps ultimately approved the 32nd Street route, which includes money to enlarge the Baker Wetlands, by adding up to 400 acres of manmade wetlands in the area, and would provide funding for the city and county to improve 31st Street, Louisiana Street and Haskell Avenue.
The Federal Highway Administration has said it would like to adopt the 2001 study conducted by the corps but is accepting comments on whether the entire process should begin anew.
Both Amyx and Hack said they planned to write individual letters to the Federal Highway Administration supporting the 32nd Street route.
Consultant hired for city manager search
A Massachusetts-based firm will help the city in its search for a new city manager.
Commissioners on Tuesday night unanimously agreed to hire Bennett Yarger Associates to serve as a consultant in the search process. The $17,500 contract will help the city advertise and recruit candidates for the city manager's position.
The company's president, Dick Bennett, will serve as the main consultant for the project. Commissioners cited his experience as a public administrator in Ohio, Michigan and Massachusetts. In Kansas, he's served as an executive search consultant for Olathe and Wichita.
Commissioners are seeking a replacement for Mike Wildgen, who resigned under pressure in March after serving 16 years as the city's top executive. Mayor Mike Amyx has said he wants the position filled by the end of August.
Lane closures to start for Kasold Drive project
Beginning today, drivers should get ready for delays on a section of Kasold Drive.
Construction crews are scheduled to start closing one lane in each direction on Kasold between Bob Billings Parkway and 22nd Street.
Construction crews will be rebuilding the stretch of road. Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works, said traffic likely would be reduced to one lane in each direction for most of the project. The work is expected to be done in September 2007.