It soon will be competition time for the South Lawrence Trafficway, city and county leaders were told Tuesday afternoon.
Engineers with the Kansas Department of Transportation told city and county commissioners that the state has begun its process of ranking projects throughout the state to determine which ones would be funded as part of a new statewide comprehensive transportation program. The department plans to list a tentative ranking of the projects in the northeast Kansas area Thursday.
“It is the first cut, basically,” said Corky Armstrong, engineering manager for KDOT’s road office. “I would speculate that this project is going to rank fairly high in this entire process, but that’s about as far as I can go.”
But commissioners were told that it is not certain the Kansas Legislature will approve a new comprehensive transportation plan. Commissioners also were told that it would take KDOT upward of three years to complete design work for the project.
The department is estimating that to complete the eastern leg of the trafficway — which would connect U.S. Highway 59 in south Lawrence to Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence — will require about $150 million in new funding.
But some commissioners said they believed the project will be looked upon favorably.
“I think at this point it is really that everything around it is really forcing the issue,” said Mayor Rob Chestnut. “When you look at the widening of Highway 59, and you look at the intermodal project in Gardner, it is the one stretch of road now that really is the missing link.”
Commissioners also were briefly updated on a federal lawsuit that has been filed over the project. Individuals concerned about protecting the Baker Wetlands from the road have filed a suit claiming roadway officials did not properly study other alternative routes for the project. Attorneys for the state have recently filed several motions seeking to dismiss portions of the lawsuit. No timeline for when a ruling on whether parts of the case will be dismissed have been announced. KDOT expects a portion of the case to continue on, Armstrong said.
In other news from the study session, KDOT engineers said work to expand U.S. 59 to four lanes is on schedule. The bulk of the expansion in Douglas County is expected to be completed by the spring of 2012. The state then will make pavement improvements to the existing U.S. 59 in 2013 before it’s turned back over to the county for maintenance.