State and local officials are right to take a proactive approach to planning for traffic and commercial development on Sixth Street near its intersection with the South Lawrence Trafficway west of Lawrence.
Now is the time to take a comprehensive look at potential developments at the intersection and how motorists will have access to those developments. Too often, local officials have tended to address those issues on a piecemeal basis as development proposals arise rather than take a big-picture view. That approach has led to some less-than-ideal traffic configurations at places like South Iowa and 31st Street, a long stretch of 23rd Street and some spots on West Sixth Street.
To avoid such pitfalls near the trafficway on Sixth Street, which is part of U.S. Highway 40, the Kansas Department of Transportation is commissioning an “interchange management plan” at the site. The state will chip in $67,000 for the study, and the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and the city-county planning office each will contribute $11,000.
It’s a good investment.
Because the SLT provides a key connection to the Kansas Turnpike north of Sixth Street, the intersection already handles a heavy traffic load, especially at peak commuting times. Although the need for traffic lights at the intersection already is apparent, there is no money right now to add the turn lanes and make other improvements that would be needed. Nonetheless, it’s good to have the study in hand so that when money becomes available, the plan is ready.
Perhaps the more important part of the study, however, is to guide commercial development at the intersection to provide adequate access to businesses without contributing to traffic problems at the site. It’s imperative that local officials take a big-picture view of development at this intersection, rather than dealing with each proposal individually without regard to how the whole intersection will develop.
As Lawrence continues to grow to the west, increased development at this intersection is inevitable; one corner already has zoning that would accommodate new big-box stores. Lawrence has too many traffic problems created primarily by a lack of sufficient foresight for how an area will develop.
KDOT and local government officials are doing the community a great service by trying to put planning ahead of development at this key intersection.