South Lawrence Trafficway
- Planning commissioner offers idea for SLT compromise (10-11-07)
- Questions about SLT to be addressed at meeting (10-09-07)
- Feds don't have SLT preference, official says (09-15-07)
- SLT gets push (09-11-07)
- Agenda packet of Douglas County Commission, which includes letter exchangebetween Federal Highway Administration and Douglas County officials onSLT (.pdf)
A letter from Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug responding to questions from a federal highway official about the South Lawrence Trafficway drew mostly criticism Wednesday night.
One of the critics was County Commissioner Charles Jones.
"I feel that the letter was poorly crafted," Jones said. He said he thinks the letter left out some important factors the Federal Highway Administration should consider as it ponders the best route for the SLT.
Weinaug's letter had not yet been mailed and was put on the commission's agenda for discussion. But there will be no change in the letter. Jones and Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney agreed that Weinaug was responding to questions put to him as county administrator. Commissioners did not receive the letter and were not asked to respond.
Johnson said he wished the letter to Weinaug from J. Michael Bowen, a division engineer with Federal Highway Administration, had been sent to him so he could have expressed his own preference for a 32nd Street route for the SLT. But he noted that wasn't what the highway administration wanted.
"It asked specific questions to the planning staff," Johnson said. "It's an administrative piece of paper. I'm not a planner."
McElhaney agreed with Johnson. And he disagreed with Jones' criticism of Weinaug's responses, saying he thought the responses were appropriate.
But Jones noted that the Kansas Department of Transportation had "modeled the impact" that different routes of the SLT would have on area roads, including 23rd Street. A 42nd Street route was found to have a more favorable overall impact. And a 32nd Street route would cause more traffic problems on south Iowa Street.
Jones said he was considering sending his own letter to the highway administration.
At least 30 people appeared at the commission meeting and many of them expressed their opinions about the long-running SLT controversy. Some of them said their concerns had been raised before but they intended to keep on talking about them.
Many of those concerns still center on the 32nd Street alignment's disruption of the Baker Wetlands. Many of the Haskell Indian Nations University staff, students and supporters have long opposed disturbing the wetlands.
"Any alignment that goes through the wetlands is basically a desecration," said Dan Wildcat, a professor of American Indian Studies at Haskell.
Wildcat and others said the wetlands are valuable for environmental and biological studies and as a preservation of green space.
"A lot of universities would like to have what we have," Wildcat said.
The highway would ruin the wetlands as a wildlife habitat, said Mike Caron, executive director of the Save the Wetlands organization.
Others, such as Laura Ruth and Stan Ross, also said the 42nd Street route would be more in line with the county's future growth patterns. It would also be a better fit for dealing with expected increases in traffic because of a planned intermodal transportation center at Gardner, they said.The last leg of the SLT, which would connect U.S. Highway 59 to Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence, has been in limbo for more than 10 years. The Federal Highway Administration is currently studying the effects the proposed SLT routes would have. It also is studying the effect a "no build" decision would have.