Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2008

South Lawrence Trafficway a hot topic in County Commission races

October 23, 2008


County forums

Jayhawk Audubon Society is sponsoring a Douglas County Commission candidate forum at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the fellowship hall of Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H.

Also, a replay of the Oct. 2 commission candidate forum by the Voter Education Coalition will be replayed at 7 p.m. Thursday on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6. The broadcasts are also available on-demand on Sunflower Broadband and at the Election 2008 link on

Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

A new lawsuit.

A federal record of decision last year to support the 32nd Street alignment to complete the South Lawrence Trafficway.

And a Douglas County Commission election on Nov. 4 that could affect the county's support about where to finish the road southeast of Lawrence.

The seemingly never-ending saga still packs plenty of drama these days, and the decades-old issue is a hot topic in the race for two County Commission seats.

Republican Jim Flory, who faces Democrat Ken Grotewiel in the county's 3rd District race, has said one of the first things he would do if elected is seek a resolution or some kind of letter that shows the county and local state legislative delegations support completing the trafficway.

"My common sense thoughts are that if we aren't unified in the request for funding of the project, then that hurts our chances," Flory said.

Flory and Republican David L. Brown, a 2nd District candidate, have said they agree with the Federal Highway Administration's support for the 32nd Street route.

Democrats Grotewiel and Nancy Thellman, Brown's opponent, have said the decision is out of the county's hands right now because of pending litigation and state funding highway decisions. But they have also mentioned the benefits of a more southerly route, such as the 42nd Street alignment.

The election winners will replace 32nd Street route supporters and Republicans Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney and join Democrat Charles Jones, who has opposed that route, on the new commission.


In the 3rd District, which includes roughly the western half of the county and western Lawrence, one candidate wants the commission to show more support for completing the SLT. Meanwhile, the other candidate says a new lawsuit from opponents, expected to be filed Friday, and a funding decision at the state level need to play out.

Completing the SLT has been controversial because the 32nd Street route involves going through the Baker Wetlands, and opponents argue that route would produce environmental and cultural damage to nearby Haskell Indian Nations University.

Flory, a former Douglas County district attorney and retired federal prosecutor, has said the 32nd Street alignment would be the best option for both sides because a mitigation plan provides for expanding the wetlands.

He also said the Federal Highway Administration's approved route would cost less than a more southerly route. State officials estimate the 32nd Street route completion would cost $148 million.

"I'm firmly a supporter of the (32nd Street) alignment and getting it done just as soon as we can," Flory said.

But Grotewiel, a former Wichita-area state legislator and retired Kansas Water Office official, says with groups planning a lawsuit an issue in the court case likely be whether the 42nd Street option was discussed enough. The county needs to wait and see what happens with the litigation.

The county does need a project that moves more traffic around the southern edge of Lawrence, he said. He would prefer it not go through the 32nd Street option.

Grotewiel said a more southerly route might have some merit, especially if the county develops south of the Wakarusa River, but the higher cost also presents problems.

"There is no magic solution. I wish there was," he said.


Brown, a Vinland-area farmer and rancher and retired Douglas County sheriff's officer, echoes Flory's views on working to complete the SLT through the 32nd Street route.

He said it's a controversial issue, but the plan seeks a middle ground with wetlands expansion and less cost.

"I think it's a win-win," Brown said.

The 2nd District includes North Lawrence, southeastern Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and the eastern half of the county.

Brown's opponent, Thellman, a Presbyterian minister, says energy costs and transportation needs should still be part of the conversation.

She opposes the 32nd Street route because she said it would mix too much truck and local traffic, and she said it would only moderately lighten congestion.

Thellman said a route farther south makes more sense for long-term planning. While litigation is pending, she says the county needs to consider a comprehensive transportation plan that includes fixing infrastructure and assessing future needs for oil-based transportation.

"My preference in all of this is to take a deep breath in this moment while so much has changed and really think about what our comprehensive transportation system needs to look like," Thellman said.


sjschlag 9 years, 7 months ago

Enough fightingBuild the damned thing!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 7 months ago

Brown and Flory are speaking on behalf of the Chamber and local developers which is why they were chosen in the primary. How do Flory and Brown intend to pay for this obsolete plan? They should know about this first and share their plans with voters.Do citizen taxpayers want tons of 18 wheelers onto K-10 thus wayyyy more traffic hassle than exists today?Anyone not open to a discussion about a better more practical route should not be elected.This is the real reason the matter is bogged down. This plan is more than 20 years old thus obsolete.If the courts support the Haskell lawsuit then Brown and Flory will want to file a counter lawsuit:. this is Bob Johnsons position and that of Douglas County Development Inc,the Chamber and the developers.After all this location in not the only place a bypass can be built. Go back to the original SOR plan and stop screwing around. If citizens want a bypass then they must organizeand take it south of the river or choose I-70 connectors that go north of K-10 to I-70.Once again how do Flory and Brown intend to pay for this obsolete plan? They should know about this first and share their plans with voters.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 7 months ago

In 1971 the State Highway Commission recommended a bypass for Lawrence not a trafficway to be built south of the Wakarusa river. The bypass is far more practical for future highway demands.Spend tax dollars on a more practical application for this point in time. Introduce appropriate plans designed to meet the future needs of four counties.Bring Johnson,Douglas,Jefferson and Leavenworth county leaders together and suggest all assist in funding bridges across the Kansas River.Residents and business of all four counties would benefit from the project.Also makes more use of I-70 = making use of an existing resource = dollars and senseThis route could join County Road 1057/1900rd @ Kansas Highway 10 existing interchange. This concept services:¢ Johnson ,Douglas, Jefferson, Leavenworth and Shawnee County drivers going to and from southern JOCO.¢ the Eudora Business Park east of 1057.¢ East Hills Business Park and the southeast Lawrence industrial park.¢ the Lawrence airport.And it:¢ diverts traffic around the city of Lawrence.¢ reduces congestion for morning and afternoon commuters.¢ might save Douglas County taxpayers millions of dollars on the long term¢ is prudent use of tax dollars.¢ eliminates the need for an eastern bypass.¢ eliminates much large truck traffic on 23rd Street.If all could come together and agree to screw the wetlands route and support the above movement, a project that has little to no opposition, likely would meet the approval of KDOT....pure speculation although logical.

Scott Drummond 9 years, 7 months ago

With the impending Obama victory, and increase in the Democrats Congressional majorities, it seems clear that this ill-considered boondoggle is close to dying a well deserved death. South of the river will soon be the only viable option being discussed. Get on board now & get it done.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 7 months ago

Nancy Thellman and Ken Grotewiel are ones who have the citizens in mind after 20 years of no bypass.Anyone not open to a discussion about a better more practical route should not be elected.

Thats_messed_up 9 years, 7 months ago

Flory and Brown will get it done. Merrill is still a total idiot.Democrats thelman and groteweil are just like the democratic Do-Nothing Congress. Block, stall, prevent progress. Lawrence's economy and infrastructure are the same as when I got here in 1995.

GOPConservative 9 years, 6 months ago

sjschlag (Anonymous), "Enough fighting Build the damned thing!"If you want to see the "damned thing" built, don't vote for Flory. He will stop all progress. He has way too much negative baggage. The national media will make out that putting Flory in charge is just another example of racism in a community that has a sorry history of mistreatment of its Native population. The focus will all be on Flory and Flory's infamous previous actions, not on completing the SLT. The net result will be that the "damn thing" still won't be built in either location because the discussion will be all about Flory and racism, not about about the objective pros and cons regarding the project itself. Noting will get done...again.Don't believe those who say that Flory will get it done because he is the best "Indian Fighter" since General George Armstrong Custer, etc. Making this an issue of the "whites versus Indians" is the main reason this "damn thing" is still not built. Stirring up racism will only lead to greater division in our community. It certainly won't lead to the SLT being finished. For some people, venting racism is more important than getting the job finished, but such hate speech has had the opposite effect regarding the goal of completing the SLT and will continue to have the opposite effect, especially when it causes the national media to focus on race relations in Lawrence again. The best way to get the job done is through discussion and compromise rather than spewing hatred as has been the approach for the last 20 years. For those of you who vote for Flory, don't blame those of us who seek peace and compromise if 20 years from now the "damn thing" still isn't built.Let's move forward on finishing the SLT, not backwards.

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