Letters to the Editor

KU holds SLT key

April 24, 2009


To the editor:

Wetland mitigation west of Louisiana has wishful thinkers believing the South Lawrence Trafficway is a “done deal.” Others warn if KDOT loses in court, this restored wetland would become apartments or big box stores. Since the mitigation is located on floodway and floodplain, such scare tactics ring hollow.

What SLT proponents hope the public won’t comprehend is that their 32nd Street plan would bring eight to ten lanes of traffic through the nature boardwalk area that so many of our children have come to know in recent years.

Programs like monarch butterfly tagging and the Wetland Learners project have introduced thousands of elementary school kids to this special place. Many more people are now aware of what would be lost if a four- to six-lane truckway were routed through this area, with a relocated four-lane 31st Street right beside it.

Most think Baker University controls the fate of this project, despite objections from Native Americans with connections to Haskell and its history. In truth, the fate of the SLT may rest with Kansas University. Back in the 1950s, KU received 20 acres when Haskell’s campus was raped and pillaged for about two-thirds of its land base.

That small plot near the intersection of 31st and Haskell Avenue sits at a critical spot along the planned “32nd Street” route. Without KU’s collaboration, that SLT plan is dead. If KDOT tries to use eminent domain KU should return the land to Haskell, rendering it federal property again, beyond state jurisdiction.

Caron is from Lawrence


honestone 8 years, 9 months ago

The SLT could have been built on the "southern alignment" YEARS ago. Has anybody wondered if all of the NEW "high-end" student housing behind Kohl's was planned there BECAUSE of the SLT? I wonder who owns that piece of property. Just follow the money

BigPrune 8 years, 9 months ago

When 4 lane Highway 59 is completed from Ottawa to Lawrence and we see an increase of 20,000 vehicles per day on top of the 30,000 vehicles per day already on 23rd Street, I think the SLT haters will have to find something else to b*tch about because the vast majority of Lawrence will be screaming bloody murder if more lawsuits are filed. It's only been 20 years since the people of Lawrence voted and approved the SLT.

jonas_opines 8 years, 9 months ago

Give me marginally shorter transit times or give me death!

rubberband 8 years, 9 months ago

What I don't get is, this guy keeps talking about eight to ten lanes of traffic running through there. Eight to ten? The portion of the SLT that's already been built is only two lanes, three at most where there is a turn lane. And has he noticed that there is already a heavily traveled, congested road going through there now?

Sheila Hooper White 8 years, 9 months ago

Build the SLT!!!! I grew up on the south side of town. Went to school at South and LHS. I have said this before but when I was a kid we never talked about the wetlands. It wasn't until someone wanted to build a bypass that you hear about it. I have nothing against the wetlands. We've been out there to tag butterflies, walk the paths, and just enjoy. I'm tired of the smell, the mosquitos, no proper lighting on 31st street....and the list could go on.

Please just finish the road to nowhere b/c I'm tired of the back up of cars on Haskell everyday. It's not just a little line. Cars are sometimes backed up to the Fed Ex building, probably even farther. JUST FINISH IT!!!!

gccs14r 8 years, 9 months ago

31st needs to come out, not be expanded. If we want high-speed traffic in town, let's build a flyover along 23rd street. Start the flyover at Harper and bring it back down at Wakarusa, with ramps at Haskell, Louisiana, Iowa, and Kasold. Local traffic could use a reduced-width 23rd under the flyover. Or we look around at the world, realize that Lawrence doesn't have a traffic problem, and save our money.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 9 months ago

"What I don't get is, this guy keeps talking about eight to ten lanes of traffic running through there. Eight to ten? "

That is, in fact, the plan. 4 lanes of 32nd St., and 4-6 lanes of SLT equals 8-10 lanes.

go_jayhawks_09 8 years, 9 months ago

I don't think KU owns the land their buses are parked on now. So if that's the land you're talking about...I dont think that's true. What land ARE you talking about?

MeAndFannieLou 8 years, 9 months ago

BigPrune - we did not vote for a trafficway, we voted for a bypass - and there is a difference.

rubberband 8 years, 9 months ago

Sweet! 4 lanes of 32nd street and 4-6 lanes of SLT? I can't wait until it's done! I am so tired of sitting in lines of 40+ cars at the 4-way stops at 31st and Haskell and 31st and Louisiana. You think I'm exaggerating don't you? Come check it out sometime around 4:30 to 6:00.

earth2la 8 years, 9 months ago

There are definitely pros and cons to the building of the SLT. The infrastructure of Lawrence certainly wasn't designed to hold the number of vehicles it does today. South Lawrence isn't the only severely congested place during rush hour. The entire city's streets swell with traffic during rush hour. 6th street is bumper to bumper from Mass all the way to Wakarusa from about 4:00 - 6:00pm -- but I don't think there are any plans to make it bigger or build a fly-over (for cryin' out loud!). I agree with gccs14r above: we only have a traffic "problem" during rush hour... and so do MOST cities -- whether bigger or smaller. It's life, folks!! We should invest in a more effective and user-friendly public transit system (and USE IT), encourage carpooling, use bikes and mopeds. Business that can, need to move toward allowing their employees to work from anywhere via technology. (This is happening slowly, but will become a reality within the next 30-50 years.) Instead of MORE ROADS... we need LESS CARS!!!

ashmole 8 years, 9 months ago

Only people who consider a trip to Missouri "foreign travel" believe that we have any traffic issues in Lawrence. Compared to the coasts and many parts of the Midwest, Lawrence is blissfully congestion-free. We don't need an expensive new trafficway. Perhaps signals at Louisiana and 31st and Haskell and 31st would be helpful, but county and city commissioners have refused to put them in (because their effectiveness might obviate the need for the trafficway). Lawrence should be seeking good pork from the Feds - like the new bioscience lab out in Manhattan - not nickels and dimes for unnecessary highways.

akuna 8 years, 9 months ago

Do not build it. Go around it. If that would have the the decision, this thing would have been done years and years ago. DO NO BUILD THROUGH THE WETLANDS.

gccs14r 8 years, 9 months ago

So you're suggesting transponders in all the cars with a detector at every intersection so that each owner of each private road can collect usage fees to pay for maintenance? Who sets the construction and fee standards to prevent mismatched &/or inadequate construction and price fixing/gouging?

JHOK32 8 years, 9 months ago

We've been arguing about this thing for 20 years! We probably could have already built the darn thing for what we've spent in attorneys' fees. What morons were in power when this thing was decided anyway? Are the big money developers to blame? We should tar & feather them!

gccs14r 8 years, 9 months ago

Considering that K-10 is free right now and is in better condition, no, I can't. Besides, they go to different places, so they woudn't be direct competitors.

If there is a right to bar passage, that would make our current traffic situation much worse. Imagine if you lived in the middle of a neighborhood and all the roads leading to your house were owned by people who wouldn't let you drive on them? How about if every road segment were owned by the adjacent homeowner? You'd have to work out transit agreements every 50', and turn around and work out a different series of tranist agreements to get back out if one homeowner didn't allow any traffic--assuming you weren't blocked by someone on that side of the street, too. There's a reason why roads are in the Constitution as a Federal item.

ihatelv 8 years, 9 months ago

I should have started at the bottom.... Anyone who spells Karen with a C and an O is a retard, and the letter just reinforces that....

It will be built. Deal with it.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

Wetlands protect our families and our property from flooding

* Wetlands act like sponges, soaking up rain and storing floodwater runoff. Wetlands slowly release flood waters back into streams, lakes, and groundwater; making flooding impacts less damaging. One acre of wetlands can store more than 360,000 gallons of water if flooded to a depth of one foot. States that have lost 80% or more of their wetlands, (Ohio, Kentucky, California, and Missouri, for example), have experienced the worst flooding in the last four years.

* Wetlands save billions of dollars in property damage by absorbing flood waters and serving as buffers during coastal storms. The National Weather Service estimates annual flooding costs are up to $3.1 billion per year. Flood damage has tripled in constant dollars since 1950.

* Destroying wetlands and converting the land to agriculture increases water runoff from fields by 200 to 400 percent. Conversion to roads and pavement increases runoff even more (Scientific Assessment and Strategy Team, 1994). Wetlands remove pollutants from runoff and keep clean waters clean.

* Studies have shown that natural wetlands filter out pollution and remove sediment from surface water.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

Wetlands act as nurseries for fish, shellfish, and provide homes for wildlife

* Most fish and waterfowl species are born in wetlands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that up to 43% of the threatened and endangered species need wetlands for their survival. For many other animals, such as the wood duck, alligator, and heron, wetlands are primary habitats. For others, (more than half of the nation's migratory birds), wetlands provide important seasonal habitats where food, water, and cover are plentiful (Academy of Natural Sciences).

* Fishing is big business in this country. The destruction of wetlands threatens the viability of the $45 billion commercial fishing industry. The National Marine Fisheries Service scientists estimate that nearly 70% of the annual commercial fish catch depends upon inshore-wetland habitats.

* Nowhere in the nation is the link between wetland habitat and fish production more obvious than in the Gulf of Mexico, where National Marine Fisheries Service scientists estimate that 98% of the harvest comes from inshore, wetlands-dependent fish and shellfish. Gulf shrimp head the list of the region's wetland dependent species according to the EPA.

* Nearly one out of every three shellfish beds were closed or restricted during 1994 (EPA, 1996) due to pollution and habitat destruction.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

Wetlands create recreational opportunities for wildlife watching, fishing, canoeing, and hunting

* Wetlands are nature's efficient pollution fighters, helping keep our waters clean. Because of their position between water and land, wetlands provide a buffer zone that intercepts polluted runoff before it contaminates lakes, rivers, and coastal waters.

* Poor water quality threatens the $380 billion recreational/tourism industry, whose most popular destinations are beaches, lakes, and rivers (EPA, 1996). In 1995, coastal and Great Lakes beaches were closed or had advisories posted warning against swimming on more than 3,522 occasions (NRDC, 1996). [Wetlands for Clean Water, 3].

* Wetlands are critically important to maintaining healthy fisheries. Fishing has always been a favorite outdoor recreational pastime for Americans. Over 49 million Americans spend $24 billion a year on sportfishing, for striped bass, flounder, trout and other species.

* Wetlands provide opportunities for popular activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating. For example, an estimated 50 million people spend approximately $10 billion each year observing and photographing wetlands-dependent birds (EPA, 1995).

* Ducks and other birds that depend on clean water and wetlands also generate economic activity for the recreation and tourism industry. Roughly 3 million waterfowl hunters spend over $600 million annually in pursuit of wetlands-dependent birds (EPA, 1995).

Currently, Congress offers limited protection for wetlands under the Clean Water Act. However, a 1997 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that roughly 120,000 acres of wetlands are being destroyed annually. Thus, it is clear that Congress must strengthen clean water and wetlands protection programs in order to preserve and protect our valuable remaining wetlands.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

So why spend more than $200,000,000(million) on a obsolete road plan, aka local developer pork barrel, that will not solve the local traffic problems? This has been established.

If taxpayers wish to vote on this expenditure they should have that opportunity I say. Maybe voter taxpayers want something more practical that will meet the needs of the future?

However it should be for a road plan that will service the need to divert traffic out around the city. This trafficway does not accomplish this need.

Developers and new roads are expensive budget items for taxpayers. These expensive budget items seldom pay back the taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

8-10 lanes has been discussed.

Bear in mind any bypass likely will be financed in large part by a local tax increase in which voters will not be given the right to vote.

In the interest of taxpayers this plan should be scrapped. As of now taxpyers have no idea how much any plan will cost. This is no way to do business.

Bring on a new design with real numbers not speculation and put it to a vote. Not only with current numbers but also where will the money come from?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 9 months ago

As we want to consider where will the money come from for new roads and their maintenance costs, taxpayers may want to beware of tax increases that are a result of any new road.

Such as:

$88 million sewage treatment plant,which in and of itself increases the cost of community services Then more water and sewer lines * streets and repairs

*houses - with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality = tax increases.

public schools fire stations law enforcement manpower sidewalks snow removal bike trails and cross walks Traffic signals Traffic calming * Increased staffing and equipment

  • developers requesting more tax dollar assistance and new infrastructure for their warehouses and retail strip malls.

In general increases the cost of community services to all taxpayers across the board.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 9 months ago

"There's actually a book out about how all the details will work, and how privatizing the highways will lead to less deaths, less congestion, and less pollution:"

In Sim City, you mean?

bearded_gnome 8 years, 9 months ago

hey, merrill's cut-and-paste says we'll get shellfish from the baker swamp!

okay, I think its only fair to insist that merrill go on a particular diet, eat only baker wetland shellfish for 30 days! come back and tell us how you're doin' then!

some of Caron's buddies have posted on this topic in the past, people from haskell, that their real reason for opposing the SLT is to stick it to whitey!

there's a great civic spirit.

truth, the fate of the SLT may rest with Kansas University. Back in the 1950s, KU received 20 acres when Haskell’s campus was raped and pillaged for about two-thirds of its land base.

I think Caron is referring to the legal transfer of land.

"rape and pillage" fits right in with "stick it to whitey."

Danimal 8 years, 9 months ago

gccs14r "...Lawrence doesn't have a traffic problem..."

It's logic like that that has landed us where we are today. I guess sitting in traffic and taking 15 minutes to go a few blocks must be normal then. In the end I suppose it's really how you define "traffic problem." Following this logic I'm sure that we can say "America isn't in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression" and poof the economy is righted, I get my job back, and all is well.

Lawrence wouldn't have a traffic problem if we just built the SLT. I don't think that all the self-labeled environmentalists realize that they are playing right into the hands of developers by pining for the southern alignment. Additionally, I'm guessing that if the southern alignment we're used the wetlands wouldn't be getting any additional acreage. I'm also extremely tired of hearing about how sacred this land is to Native Americans. For those of you that weren't paying attention, ALL LAND IS SACRED TO NATIVE AMERICANS! Seriously, it's part of their belief system, they've just gotten particularly attached to this little parcel.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 9 months ago

"some of Caron's buddies have posted on this topic in the past, people from haskell, that their real reason for opposing the SLT is to stick it to whitey!"

No, the "real" reason is to rectify "whitey's" sticking it to Haskell one more one more.

Michael Caron 8 years, 9 months ago

    It is amazing how many of the "just build it!" commenters have absolutely no idea what the 32nd Street plan for the SLT calls for in terms of new construction of highway lanes inside Baker's portion of the wetlands.

   The plan requires 31st Street to be removed and a new four lane highway built through the area where the boardwalk currently sits. Then a million dollar "sound wall" would separate those new lanes from the SLT itself, on the south side of the wall. That road would also be four new lanes, but only INITIALLY. There is a 46' median between the east and west lanes. Look on the KDOT site. It allows KDOT to expand the SLT to at least six lanes once Highway 10 is widened to six (already on the drawing boards), to link with the Kansas Turnpike, which is already six lanes from Lawrence to Topeka.

      In fact the 46 feet would allow the city to expand the trafficway to eight lanes within the city based on the 11' norm for urban lane widths these days. That would not happen right away, but it certainly diminishes the charge that Caron's 8 to 10 lane statement is "hyperbole". In fact the project could eventually result in 12 lanes of asphault across the boardwalk and areas immediately to the south.

     That so-called "sound wall" is intended to con folks into thinking KDOT is "protecting" the wetlands. Such devices, which cost approximately $1 million per mile, were never intended to shield wetlands. The sound is reflected off the wall, softening the noise pollution for the little old lady who lives in the house right beside a new freeway, in the "sound shadow". In this case there are major roads on BOTH sides of the wall! Double reflected sound on each side. Total case of "greenwashing". Spend a million to fool the public into believing a threatened ecosystem is safe from the effects of their project.

    Of course there are two of these expensive boondoggles. Two million to be spent so folks will buy the idea that the wetland can thrive with all those trucks barrelling through the wetlands every night after the commuters are in bed. If the lawsuit were settled tomorrow, no matter whether KDOT loses as they did in the 1990s, or the court rules in their favor, both sides are committed to the next level.

  Don't hold your breath for this thing to get built unless the proponents give up on going across the wetlands. Long before anyone can find funds for completing the SLT there will be an $80 million plus wastewater treatment plant on the south bank of the Wakarusa and everyone will be aware that south of the river is Lawrence's next primary growth area. Finding that kind of money for a regional "by-pass" that goes right through the city's footprint will require more than another late night earmark from Senator Roberts.

BigPrune 8 years, 8 months ago

I remember when the area north of 31st street was a party area. Then the SLT was proposed, and people started putting up plywood signs in that area. The current SLT road to nowhere was originally planned for 4 lanes, but since it got tied up in court numerous times, the funding started to dwindle and the state then settled for a Super 2-Lane road. So next time someone gets killed in a head on collision on the bypass, just remember that little fact. If the highway were 4 lanes like originally planned, the likelyhood of a head on collision diminishes greatly.

So, the finished SLT will cause the wetlands to increase in size, boo-hoo. That portion will be safer, boo-hoo. The carbon footprints left by the idling cars on 31st Street will go away, boo-hoo. The "sprawl" caused by an alignment further south (because development gravitates to highways), will no longer be an issue, boo-hoo, and the more northern route will cost tens of millions less to build than the more southern route, ultimately saving the taxpayer money, boo-hoo.

Perhaps I am being far too logical.

When the Earth Nazis lose in court, I wonder how much heavy equipment will be damaged by the losers - just like they did on the finished portion when it was under construction.

Michael Caron 8 years, 8 months ago

Logic is the least appropriate word to characterize the combination of bigotry, twisted facts, historical ignorance, and outright falsehoods packed into BigPrune's "Earth Nazi" rant.

There was funding for the entire SLT until KDOT filled the pockets of a few well connected land speculators in a deliberate attempt to exhaust the funds on the western leg so they could make the ludicrious claim that the eastern legs had been "de-federalized" (and thus was not subject to NEPA and other federal laws). That strategy did not fly in court, and was judged equally absurd when reviewed on appeal by the 10th Circuit in Denver.

One of the silliest arguments any SLT proponent can make for paving the wetlands is that it is somehow going to save Lawrence from sprawling to the south. It is seldom uttered by anyone who is seriously interested in reducing sprawl. It is hypocracy, plain and simple. If the city were not already fully committed to building an $80 million wastewater treatment facility on the south bank of the Wakarusa, just east of Haskell Ave, one might successfully pretend ignorance that area is already planned for major residential development. I have no doubt BigPrune already knows this.

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