It’s good to see planning moving forward for an interchange linking Bob Billings Parkway and Kansas Highway 10 west of Lawrence.
Although the interchange was part of the original plan for the South Lawrence Trafficway, it fell by the wayside due to funding and other concerns before construction on the road began. The county also tried earlier this year to get federal stimulus funds to build the interchange, but that request was denied.
According to Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller, the stimulus money went to projects that were more “shovel-ready” than the Lawrence interchange. The projects that got money, she said, were ones that were ready to be put out to bid within a few weeks.
That wasn’t the case for the local interchange, but an announcement from Miller’s office on Thursday should remedy that situation.
The project is one of five in the state that Miller said would get initial planning money. It can sometimes take years to get a project to the actual construction stage, she said, and starting on planning now will mean the project is ready to go when funding becomes available.
There are some local concerns about increased traffic the interchange likely will create on Bob Billings Parkway, but the interchange will provide a valuable additional route to Kansas University and to office and business developments west of Wakarusa Drive. The four-lane parkway is designed to be a major thoroughfare through western Lawrence. If speeding or traffic safety is a problem along the route, that is an enforcement issue that can be addressed.
There is no question that having the planning done for the new interchange will significantly raise the project on the state’s priority list. In the current economic climate, it’s difficult to predict when funding for the interchange might become available, but it’s good that state officials are trying to be ready when that time comes.