Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Last lawsuit?

The legal wrangling over the South Lawrence Trafficway continues.

October 22, 2008


It certainly is no surprise that opponents plan to file a lawsuit to block construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway on a 32nd Street route.

We can only hope this will be the last lawsuit involving this controversial road.

A press release issued Monday night indicated that the Haskell Wetlands Preservation Organization, with the support of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and a number of area environmental groups, will hold a press conference Friday to announce their lawsuit. The Haskell group will take the lead on the effort, perhaps because opponents believe the significance of the wetlands to Native American culture and history is their strongest argument against completing the trafficway.

The lawsuit will challenge the "record of decision" issued earlier this year by the Federal Highway Administration. The document was the final approval required to build the SLT, but construction hasn't moved forward, in part, because of a lack of funding. Federal and state highway funds are scarce, and officials have been hesitant to commit funding to a project that still faced the legal uncertainties that have plagued the SLT for several decades.

If the latest lawsuit helps clarify and eliminate those legal barriers, it will be a great boon for Lawrence. If the courts reject the Native American and environmental concerns, construction can go ahead on the approved route. If the lawsuit is found to have merit, local officials may be forced to consider other routes for the southern bypass.

Traffic in the Kansas City-Lawrence-Topeka corridor continues to grow. Work on the new U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence is well under way and highway officials must have a way to move traffic from that road around Lawrence and to the east.

Lawrence's own "bridge to nowhere" at the south end of Iowa Street is a monument to how a highway project can split a community. How much longer does Lawrence want to be the laughingstock of the state relative to the almost criminal and costly delay of this road, which would traverse what used to be poor scrub farmland?

It's almost guaranteed that no solution to the SLT puzzle will satisfy everyone, but it's time to move this project from the courts to construction.


bad_dog 9 years, 4 months ago

"Send the lawyers to the dark hole from whence they came and build it."-blueAw come on, blue... You sound kind of like Shakespeare there. I like scooters too, and beer and, well you get it.Besides certain lawyers have to be retained to defend the new lawsuit or they'll just get a default judgment and the project will be over.While I share your disdain of attorneys to a certain extent; I have to deal with them too, they aren't all bad.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

"How much longer does Lawrence want to be the laughingstock of the state relative to the almost criminal and costly delay of this road, which would traverse what used to be poor scrub farmland?"If the criminals who planned this route hadn't decided to cram it down Haskell's throat, the road would be built already.

skinny 9 years, 4 months ago

It will be built this time whether you like it or not.Enough is enough.Most of the land has already been purchased by the county so as soon as they get the approval the construction project will begin, period!

jayhawkbarrister 9 years, 4 months ago

How naive to think that there is only one more lawsuit.Even if the record of decision is upheld by the courts, there will have to be another lawsuit to condemn the property for right of way for the completion of the trafficway, unless you know of some alternative to the takings clause of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and takings clause of the Kansas Constitution. There are a number of parcels of land along the proposed route that have options to buy that will be exercised, hoping to get a $$ windfall through the condemnation process. There will be a mandatory lawsuit in state court, complete with paid experts on both sides informing the courts about the value of the land being condemned. If that decision is not accepted by the landowner or option holder of the county, then there will be an appeal. when the bids are put out for this project, wait for the losing parties to contest that process with more lawsuits.The cost to the county of these lawsuits will make the city's tab on the 6th Street Wal*Mart seem like a blue-light special. (Pardon the mixed metaphors.)Your naivete is quaint.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

It is concerning how any fiscally responsible citizen would be supporting this project without knowing current numbers and sources of funding. Not only that the real existing problem is that all of the options were never presented to the public including at least two that would avoid the wetlands completely. Actually 3 options when the original SOR plan is included. Of course these options do not economically benefit our local developers to the extent they had in mind aka free lunch. two years ago,in a county commission meeting, a plan was revealed for a second SOR bypass in addition to the trafficway. Why not just go SOR?The 31st street extension is also on the table. County roads 1000 and 1100 need work as well maybe replacement bridges.How many road projects including road improvements surrounding the many light industrialprojects can taxpayers afford to undertake?If a bypass is built that will remove 23rd street from KDOTjurisdiction thus Lawrence taxpayers inherit total responsibility. The western leg to I-70 provides an avenue to move 59 traffic east so that is not a real problem. Plus I-35 can be picked up in Ottawa. I-35 can also be picked up at Wichita,El Dorado and Emporia thus another way to catch I-70 in Topeka. There are plenty of existing options.Eliminating public transportation will make Lawrence the laughing stock of the state and further tarnish its' progressive or green image. Eliminating pork barrel highway projects improves the image of Lawrence taxpayers.

Michael Caron 9 years, 4 months ago

Skinny says: "Most of the land has already been purchased by the county so as soon as they get the approval the construction project will begin, period!"Skinny is a little thin on the facts. The latest figures from Corky Armstrong at KDOT had the SLT at just over $150 million, but understand that KDOT's cost projections are based on the most recent figures available to complete a similar roadway somewhere in Kansas. Such approximations are not only grossly outdated already, but are arbitrary and subject to manipulation, exaggeration or minimization, as purely political number waving. The fact is, given the fluctuations in petroleum markets, nobody has an educated guess about how expensive this road will really be whether it is built across the wetlands or south of the Wakarusa or some other alternative comes to the table. One thing that IS certain, however, is the next administration in Washington will be far less enthusiastic about heavily subsidizing an eight to ten lane truckway across a wetlands than Bush FHWA appointees have been, so the enthusiasts had better be ready to vote on a substantial tax increase to fund this abomination, and the whole nation will be watching.

Michael Caron 9 years, 4 months ago

Bowhunter99 does not want to hear about things "that happened or didn't happen hundreds of years ago".Bowhunter shot way to the right of the target. This is not about what happened "hundreds of years ago". The area is important to Haskell and to many people across Indian Country for a lot of different reasons. Most happened in my lifetime, but even those that occurred back in the early years of Haskell Institute have enormous implications for the role this place would have in Haskell Indian Nation University's future. Most of the nation's off reservation boarding schools are gone, turned into shopping centers, golf courses, housing developments, highways, or campuses for New Age academic institutions. Haskell is the one place where the tangible presence of that important chapter of Native American history is still preserved. Bowhunter would rather not be troubled with reminders of what happened. Haskellites take great pride in the fact that they and their ancestors survived the boarding school era. But more importantly, they have transformed their school into the leading institution where native traditions and languages have a significant role in the way one is educated for the 21st century. Non-Indians have great difficulty grasping how important it is that the wetland, which was drained and abused in ways that so many see as parallelling the way our government tried to drain all the Indian out of their parents and grandparents, demands that the wetland and the people, and all their wild relatives who have returned to this place, yes the otters and beavers and egrets and other survivors, not be paved over by the greed and speed crazed folks who don't have time to learn lessons from the past, or to really consider what this place could be for future generations.

David Benson 9 years, 3 months ago

"Lawrence's own "bridge to nowhere" at the south end of Iowa Street is a monument to how a highway project can split a community. How much longer does Lawrence want to be the laughingstock of the state relative to the almost criminal and costly delay of this road, which would traverse what used to be poor scrub farmland?"Lawrence has the chance to be the exact opposite of a laughingstock for not completing this poorly envisioned and poorly rationalized road. The only argument in favor of completing it is convenience for commuters. Wetlands provide value to a community that no road can provide, especially when there are other options for building that road (i.e. south of the river). The word criminal should be reserved for those who adamantly insist that human expedience is more important than preserving nature. And doesn't anybody else see the city's attempts to reduce turnoffs on 23rd St. as a cynical attempt to con residents into thinking the SLT will have reduced congestion on 23rd St.? The timing of the 23rd St. project is suspicious at best.

gccs14r 9 years, 3 months ago

The road isn't necessary. Anyone who complains about our "rush hour" hasn't driven anywhere that has one. Besides, tax dollars are already a scarce and precious commodity and are going to be harder to come by as we spiral into a deflationary depression, so we'd be better served by not spending them on yet more infrastructure that won't be maintained.

lunacydetector 9 years, 3 months ago

the first leg of the road was supposed to be a 4 lane highway then the lawsuits started. the first leg turned into a super 2 highway which is far more dangerous in regards to head on collissions than a 4 laner. don't forget that when the first leg was under construction saboteurs ruined construction equipment to delay its completion. shouldn't the majority rule? we passed it in a public vote - something that the anti-SLT people imposed through the courts. they delayed to no avail, the people passed it and then the other lawsuits started coming out of the woodwork, funds started dwindling, then the 4 laner turned into a super 2.i've lived in lawrence for decades. the first time i ever saw a roadside medicine wheel was when this controversy was moved to the second leg of the bypass. give haskell $3 million like was discussed a few years ago and let's be on our merry way with a new road. the county could form a corporation as a quasi private/governmental business and turn this thing into a toll road and set up like the kansas turnpike authority another quasi private/governmental entity. this may be a naive idea but it might work if someone looks into it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 3 months ago

"the first leg of the road was supposed to be a 4 lane highway then the lawsuits started. the first leg turned into a super 2 highway"Pure BS. They ran out of money because the speculators who had land in the right of way got Dan Watkins appointed as the state negotiator for the condemnation proceedings, and he obliged by spending all the money buying up their parcels at very high rates.

BrianR 9 years, 3 months ago

"How much longer does Lawrence want to be the laughingstock of the state relative to the almost criminal and costly delay of this road, which would traverse what used to be poor scrub farmland?"If Lawrence is being laughed at it is because the people who want to build this road don't know when to f-quit.The bridge to nowhere is a nice leverage piece though. It should be leveled.

Michael Caron 9 years, 3 months ago

Lunacy claims the super 2 lane west leg of the trafficway is the fault of those who oppose paving the wetlands. Is there a shred of evidence for that assertion? Years ago Gwen Mellinger did an expose of the developers who made out like bandits when KDOT decided to "defederalize" the eastern leg of the SLT. They paid outrageous compensation to Sabatini and Compton and Billings and other insiders who had bought up the land where the western leg passed. The design of that western leg of the SLT has absolutely nothing to do with the federal courts declining to approve the eastern leg. If money did run short it may have something to do with KDOT spending over a million dollars to build the "BRIDGE TO NOWHERE" after the courts had already stopped the plans to pave the wetlands. That was their way of sending the message that no matter what the courts say they planned to find a way to build the SLT through the wetlands. Our little bridge to nowhere may be as famous as the one in Alaska if the good old boys keep on believing they can get the SLT built south of the Wakarusa.As to the medicine wheel, Stan Herd, Dan Wildcat and Les Evans, the three who thought up and designed the project in 1992, have explained again and again that it was a way to celebrate 500 years (1492) of indigenous survival since the arrival of Columbus, and the survival and transformation of Haskell. The four pillars that mark the cardinal directions in the medicine wheel are limestone sills from the original dorm windows. An amazing transformation of evil into good. Dismissing that as a ploy to block the SLT is a sick myopic distortion of truth.

dandelion 9 years, 3 months ago

When the vote was taken to build this thing, it wasn't that clear that it would go through the wetlands. Try having the vote now. It wouldn't pass. They could have built 20 bridges over the Wakarusa by now if they weren't so adamant about building it through the wetlands.

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