Last week a Kansas Department of Transportation official was quoted in the Journal-World saying he thought chances looked good for the long delayed South Lawrence Trafficway project to be ranked “fairly high” in the upcoming overall ranking of KDOT projects.
Douglas County and Lawrence leaders were briefed on the project, but cautioned that funds were tight and there was no assurance state legislators would approve the money needed to fund planning and construction costs.
While cautious, Lawrence Mayor Rob Chestnut also said he thought the project was moving ahead and that “at this point it is really forcing the issue.”
The next day, KDOT officials announced their ranking of projects for future urban highway improvements. Completion of the SLT, an estimated $150 million project, was No. 5 in KDOT’s top five state projects. The top four were all located in Wyandotte and Johnson counties. The SLT would extend the existing trafficway for seven miles between U.S. Highway 59 at the southeastern edge of the city east to Kansas Highway 10.
A KDOT official was pleased with the SLT’s No. 5 ranking, saying that it proves the project has local support, economic need and engineering justification.
The delay in finishing this badly needed and long delayed project is almost criminal in the tremendous increase in costs compared to the price tag if it had been completed when the western section of the trafficway was built. Several groups have successfully initiated questionable efforts to delay the project, raising issues and concerns that opponents claim would result in damages to Haskell Indian Nations University, the environment and Baker Wetlands. Those questions have already been answered.
It’s good to learn completion of the trafficway is among the top priorities of KDOT and this news should cause local officials to increase their efforts to push the project closer to construction. The need for the roadway grows more intense month by month and it has been delayed far too long. The SLT’s proposed route, just south and parallel to West 31st Street, is the best and favored location and it is time for city and county officials, along with leaders of the Kansas University Endowment Association, which owns a small piece of property along the proposed path, to renew and increase their efforts to secure funding for the trafficway.
The old story pointing out how the U.S. mail would never get delivered if the postman stopped his route for each barking dog is a clear example of what has happened to the SLT project for far too many years.