Topeka — State officials on Monday announced that surveying work will start on the proposed South Lawrence Trafficway but that funding for construction of the $150 million project remains unavailable.
“We were afraid if our surveyors just showed up out there, it would give rise to the feeling that we would try to fly under the radar,” said Vicky Johnson, Kansas Department of Transportation’s chief counsel. “This survey work is not an indication that we are getting ready to start the project.”
But she said the survey does show that planning continues on the proposal to build the SLT, connecting U.S. Highway 59 south of town with Kansas Highway 10 near Noria Road.
The proposed route along 32nd Street has been fought for years by those who say it will damage the environmental and historical significance of the Baker Wetlands, just south of Haskell Indian Nations University.
A lawsuit challenging the project is pending, and there is no funding for construction.
Bob Eye, the lead attorney representing groups opposed to the SLT, said he was disappointed the surveying was taking place.
“Spending money surveying this route seems to be an unwise expenditure when there are bridges and potholes to be repaired,” Eye said.
KDOT said the survey is needed to identify right-of-way and to map potential tie-in points for interchanges, locations of utilities, drainage structures and update aerial photography and other information last compiled in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The work will take about three months along 5 1/2 miles, outside the Baker Wetlands, KDOT said.
Johnson said she didn’t know how much the survey would cost but that it would involve a 3- or 4-person KDOT crew. KDOT would like to have plans for the project completed so that if funding did become available the agency could proceed, she said.
At this point, the state is facing severe budget problems.