Note: This article is part of a week long series, running March 14 to March 20, honoring Sunshine Week.
Plans for finishing the South Lawrence Trafficway remain stuck in idle, as the estimated $148 million project continues to lack money for completion, plans for construction and clearance from a federal court that has yet to set a definitive date for hearing legal arguments from opponents of the project.
Also incomplete: The state’s response to a request for public information regarding land-acquisition efforts on the project.
Since January, the Journal-World, 6News and LJWorld.com have been seeking information from the Kansas Department of Transportation regarding land for the project:
• How much property has KDOT acquired?
• How much did it cost?
• How much more does the department still need, and from whom?
The trafficway already connects the Farmers’ Turnpike and the Kansas Turnpike at the northeastern edge of Lawrence with U.S. Highway 59 at the southern end of town.
A route for the remainder of the project — to run east to Kansas Highway 10 at the southeastern edge of Lawrence, near Noria Road — has been approved by the federal government but is being challenged in U.S. District Court by a coalition of organizations and individuals concerned that the planned route through the Baker Wetlands would be environmentally damaging and would harm nearby Haskell Indian Nations University.
Starting with informal discussions, and ultimately leading to a written request Feb. 11 under the Freedom of Information Act, The World Company’s media operations have been seeking the information to shed light on the project. The efforts are part of the company’s reporting for Sunshine Week.
KDOT acknowledged receipt of the formal request Feb. 12, in a letter from Russell Ash, a staff attorney and the department’s open records custodian: “Please be aware that due to the scope of information you are seeking, it will take longer than 3 (three) business days to fill your request.”
In subsequent phone conversations, KDOT officials have said that research was continuing: extensive, exhaustive — and potentially expensive — research, going through old files and examining new ones to uncover the requested information.
Despite earlier indications from Ash’s office that releasable information likely would be available sometime between March 5 and last Friday, Ash ended the week with a phone call. He’d met with the department’s bureau chief in charge of rights of way, who’d advised him that he’d be forwarding information to Ash by the end of this week.
When we receive the information, we’ll get back with you.