Tonganoxie leaders say they want it. Lawrence leaders say they want it to go away.
That's the latest twist in the decades-old dispute surrounding a proposal to build a South Lawrence Trafficway aligned with 32nd Street through the Baker Wetlands.
On Wednesday, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission voted 7-3 to send a letter to the Federal Highway Administration urging it to abandon plans for the 32nd Street alignment. The vote comes as a public-comment session nears its close and two days after the Tonganoxie City Council - at the request of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. - voted unanimously to send a letter voicing support for the plan.
Earlier this month, Lawrence's City Commission voted 3-2 to send an official letter opposing the route, which also is opposed by environmental groups.
Wednesday's vote by the Planning Commission came after nearly two hours of debate.
The group agreed to send a version of a letter drafted by Commissioner John Haase that calls for abandoning the Wetlands route, focusing on building a connection between Kansas Highway 10 and Interstate 70 east of Lawrence, and expanding 31st Street to make a connection between the spot where the SLT now ends at U.S. 59 and an unspecified point on K-10.
More about the trafficway
- 6News video: Tonganoxie City Council in favor of wetlands SLT route
- 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)
But the letter won't go in the mail before revisions are made to tone down some language. For example, a section that recommends roundabouts to be built at intersections along the expanded 31st Street will be replaced to read roundabouts "or other appropriate-traffic control devices."
Chairman Terry Riordan, who voted against sending the letter, said the commission hadn't studied the issue closely enough to make such a detailed proposal. He questioned whether Haase's vision of 31st Street would do anything to solve traffic issues.
"This appears to me to be solely based on personal opinion," he said. "Do you really think that making the SLT a street with roundabouts and lowering the speed limit to 45 miles per hour will not be disruptive?"
Haase said his goal was simply to shift federal planners' thinking about the project and get them to explore an alternative to going through the wetlands.
"What they need in my judgment is something that piques their interest, and then they can look into the details," he said.
On Monday, the Tonganoxie City Council voted 3-0 to authorize Mayor Dave Taylor to send a letter supporting the 32nd Street alignment.
"With realization of the regional growth and commuter, commercial and industrial needs for efficient, safe traffic infrastructure, we see the SLT as beneficial to the populous as well as an element to attract new economic investment in the area," the letter states.