Archive for Sunday, March 14, 2010

KDOT still responding to SLT records request

March 14, 2010


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 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.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

From a document downloaded on 8/16/2002:

Thus far as of 1995 a total of $12,292,122 has been spent so far. This does not include the cost of appraisals,legal fees or other unknown expenses. There are 42 properties on this list.

A local attorney who also represents the local real estate industry aka proponents of the SLT,who negotiated most of the right of way takings for KDOT, was paid $90 per hour or an estimated $22,500.

As a general rule smaller portions of land commanded more per acre. In some cases the cost to cure and compensation for damages exceeded the price for the right of way.

Property owners did very well in fact. A number of people probably retired as a result of their settlements. There are some who received per acre : $1800 $4000 $5000 $8500 $9,750 $12,500 $14,000 $16,000 $22,500 $43,500 $59,000 $76,000 $65,000 $211,250 (Payless cashways)

It seems obvious to me that some aka developers invested in property knowing the highway MIGHT be going through the purchased property in which case walked away with: $50,896 - 2.05 acres $161,000 - 10 acres $166,000 $185,675 - 1.26 acres $198,000 $250,000 - 4.21 acres $255,954 - 13.7 acres $281,800 - 5.61 acres $287,662 - 10.75 acres Yankee Tank $298,000 $311,650 - 9 acres $355,110 - 24.92 acres $359,342 $401,370 - 17 acres $891,099 - 10.98 acres $ 3,500,000(3.5 million) - 20 acres *$2,911,500(million) - .04 acres

As we see folks are doing quite well on this project. There apparently is still more property to be bought. Oddly enough some have set up business along the way = over priced property.

Our local real estate executives have purchased property along the way, according to some local agents, which should net their companies a tidy sum which likely explains why they are hell bent on this route.

This info merely provides a glimpse of how our tax dollars are being spent. Very loosely I'd say. Purchasing property at "boom town" prices does not work well for taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Please bear in mind the current KDOT secretary was not in office when this type of buying took place. Have other purchases been made since?

Why would KDOT authorize purchases of property before the courts have rendered a decision? That's how the Lawrence,Kansas bridge to nowhere was born.

The previous KDOT secretary appeared to be "friends" with proponents. Exactly how close....who knows???

IdahoWinds 8 years, 2 months ago

This is a pretty typical blog on Merrill's part. Partial information with fill in the blanks for what he wants it to read. If I recall, Payless Cashways was not impacted by the SLT at all. Why would you indicate that anything had been purchased from them? I didn't see any properties east of Iowa (other than Payless Cahsways) Why not? Part of the reason that land speculators have the opportunity to position themselves to "cash in" on these deals is because of obstructionist like yourself and Mike Caron. Don't blame the realtors - they are doing what you allow them to do with obstruction and delay. People who know that the SLT is going to eventually be built thru their property have a pretty short period of patience. They might wait 5 years but after that what is the point? So they gladly sell to a speculator. Any improvements they want to make is probably wasted money that they will not recover no matter how much out of control YOU might think prices are. Your claim that "Oddly enough some have set up business along the way = over priced property. " This is totally bogus. There is not a SINGLE business along the remaining portion of the 32nd street alignment that wasn't there before 2002 (when the current route was decided on). Another thing that is totally bogus with your list of properties is an indication of what the land use was prior to purchase. Paying $355,000 for 20 acres of bottom farm ground might seem out of line, but if it had a decent house on it - then it could be justified. All of this whining does not lesson the need to complete the eastern leg of the SLT. Once US 59 is completed where do you think that additional traffic is going to go? It won't all go onto the SLT to the west !! Claiming it should be built south of the river is NOT a solution if you want to complete it within the next 15 years. (Of course I realize that Merrill has no intent of ever having the road built - he rides a bicycle everywhere!) The road will NOT destroy the Baker Wetlands. The mitigation will greatly enhance what is there...for wildlife and the public. Why do you think Baker Univ supports the plan? It is in the best interest of the property that they intend to manage long into the future. Students and Faculty from Baker and HINU will still be able to get there as they do now. Destroying 10% of the current Baker Wetlands is not a slap in the face of Native Americans. The claims of 500 burials is made up. It will still be as sacred when the road is completed as it is now. The road will be built so let's git r dun and move on.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Had the design stayed with the original south of the river plan rather than through the city where loads of development was planned the price for property would likely be more reasonable.

If trucks need to catch I-35 coming from the south that can easily be done in Ottawa,Kansas. There is no need to come through Lawrence,Kansas. The Ottawa interchange has been there since day one. From the north by way of Kansas City.

East/West is easily accessed by way of I-70. I-70 can be accessed by way of 335 and Topeka which I've done many times.

The wetlands is not new. It has been a wetlands forever. Sure farming may have been tried but the land is way too low which is why water gravitates to this point like all other wetlands on the planet.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Not only that there are other KDOT options:

In 1971 the State Highway Commission recommended a BYPASS for Lawrence NOT a trafficway to be built south of the Wakie river with absolutely no effect on the wetlands. The bypass is far more practical for future highway demands. Douglas County needs a bypass NOT a trafficway.

Here is what I would propose: Why not agree on a south-of-the-river bypass and forget the obsolete trafficway concept?

Spend tax dollars on a more practical application. Introduce appropriate plans designed to meet future needs, a plan that could bring Johnson, Douglas and Leavenworth counties together as partners. This requires bridges across the river. All three counties would benefit, thus would assist funding the project. Then, turn the entire road project over to the Kansas Turnpike Authority.

A south-of-the-river route would join County Road 1057 and Kansas Highway 10 to carry traffic north to Interstate 70 by way of I-70 connectors meeting a Tonganoxie turnpike interchange.

This concept accomplishes many things. It services: • Johnson and Douglas counties’ traffic going to northwest Lawrence or Topeka. • the Eudora Business Park east of 1057. • East Hills Business Park and the southeast Lawrence industrial park. • the Lawrence airport. And it: • diverts traffic around the city. • keeps the SLT out of the wetlands. • reduces congestion for morning and afternoon commuters. • might save Douglas County taxpayers millions of dollars. • is prudent use of tax dollars. • eliminates the need for an eastern bypass. • eliminates much large truck traffic on 23rd Street. • allows KTA fees to pay for the highway and the maintenance.

Building a road through the wetlands at any cost at this point in time is simply not prudent use of Douglas County tax dollars.

Considering that the two lane western leg opened at a cost of $52,000,000(million) taxpayers cannot afford a trafficway and a bypass which is on the table. As taxpayers doing the right thing the first time is all taxpaying citizens can afford.

Better yet build a bypass by way of I-70 connectors toll roads and save taxpayers a ton of dough. Cars and developers expect too much from big government and my tax dollars!

Joe Hyde 8 years, 2 months ago

The entire SLT project can serve as a laboratory specimen example of the politics of greed.

When the project was first proposed, ostensibly as a means of "reducing traffic congestion on 23rd St." , KDOT officials ordered a number of studies conducted. Each study concluded that building a 4-lane by-pass to the south and west of Lawrence would not relieve 23rd St. congestion, but would instead actually increase and aggravate congestion. Consequently, KDOT used the results of these studies to deny permits for building the Trafficway.

Why? Because KDOT knew the by-pass would facilitate a house-building boom that would result in a population jump in Lawrence, which would very quickly worsen traffic on 23rd St. (since 23rd St. is a densely-packed commercial destination area).

Ahh...but then Bill Graves got elected governor of Kansas. I doubt Graves, who comes from a family involved in the trucking business, ever saw a highway project he didn't like. And soon after his election KDOT officials changed their tune; suddenly the SLT project made perfect sense and they approved the project! There quickly followed a mass purchase of property along the SLT's western leg -- purchases where landowners were paid obscene amounts of money per acre.

Emphasis was put on buying land and completing construction of the western leg of the project first. This because the hilly rural area lying due west of Lawrence was not part of the Wakarusa River floodplain and was thus more rapidly"develop-able". And in the whole headlong rush to establish dominance over the western area, at no time did the project's principal planners and promoters, both local and state, feel it necessary to involve Haskell University officials and the various Tribal Elders in the discussion. It was simply taken for granted that Haskell and the tribes would surrender their interests once completion of the western leg began to apply "expectation pressure". But Haskell did not roll over.

The SLT's planners, promoters and developers also took it for granted that everyone living in Lawrence was happy seeing this city become an aggressive "Overland Park West" whose sprawl devours Douglas County like a cancer. You look now at all the Starter Castles -- monstrous homes built during the last 30 years in rural areas to the west and southwest of Lawrence -- it's obvious that a great many people of extreme wealth assumed they would cash in on all the "growth" triggered by the ultimate completion of Lawrence's SLT.

I don't like being negative and cynical about the city I live in. But when I see what the politics of greed has done to Lawrence, ruining so many wild, beautiful rural areas that I knew in my youth, it's like no matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up.

IdahoWinds 8 years, 2 months ago

Riverrat - Greed is a human behavior. It ALWAYS has been and ALWAYS will be. What does that really have to do with the SLT. Your traffic studies by KDOT are true the actual results you fabricated or someone else did for you. You give KDOT way too much credit. I'm guessing you have never met a conspiracy theory that you didn't buy into.

Merrill - get a grip on reality. No ONE reads your blogs. You are not in touch with reality!!! Just because you say it over and over doesn't make your ideas any more closer to reality. Keep on dreaming and the rest of us will continue to work in the real world.

Some day you will both wake up and realize that you were both complaining over NOTHING.

In 1968 the land that Baker received was just as farmable as the land to the west of Louisiana and east of Haskell Ave. Go look west of Louisiana...that is reality. You can restore wetlands just like Dr. Boyd is doing but it won't happen if you go south of the Wakarusa.

Dream on.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Man made flood control cost tons of big government tax dollars and does not always work.

Let's be prudent and frugal by way of allowing wetlands to do flood control for us such that has been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Flood Protection Wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters. Trees, root mats, and other wetland vegetation also slow the speed of flood waters and distribute them more slowly over the floodplain.

This combined water storage an braking action lowers flood heights and reduces erosion. Wetlands within and downstream of urban areas are particularly valuable, counteracting the greatly increased rate and volume of surface- water runoff from pavement and buildings.

The holding capacity of wetlands helps control floods and prevents water logging of crops.

Preserving and restoring wetlands, together with other water retention, can often provide the level of flood control otherwise provided by expensive dredge operations and levees.

The bottomland hardwood- riparian wetlands along the Mississippi River once stored at least 60 days of floodwater. Now they store only 12 days because most have been filled or drained.

Reference: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1995b. America's wetlands: Our vital link between land and water. Office of Water, Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. EPA843-K-95-001. Wetlands: Protecting Life and Property from Flooding (PDF format, 286 Kb)

Executive Order 11988: Floodplain Management - an order given by President Carter in 1977 to avoid the adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains. Information from Floodplain Managers -1. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) -1. Association of State Floodplain Managers

Natural flood control is worth billions upon billions upon billions in tax dollar savings.

Let's spend big government tax dollars on educating our children or teaching someone Vo-Tech skills.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

I believe farmers should never sell for less than $200,000 per acre....

Considering the huge profits that will be made from each acre...

IdahoWinds 8 years, 2 months ago

Merrill says "Man made flood control cost tons of big government tax dollars and does not always work.

Let's be prudent and frugal by way of allowing wetlands to do flood control for us such that has been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years. "

What did you NOT understand about my last blog? The new wetlands of Louisiana ARE flood control. Remember all that rain we had last summer - Louisiana never went under water once. Previous years it has with even less rain.

You want wetlands - then support the 32nd st alignment. The Baker Wetlands lose 56 acres but the mitigation gains over 300 ac of wetlands.

Figure it out - the mitigation plan is a win-win and traffic on 31st is sane again.

Mike Ford 8 years, 2 months ago

it's a shame that people in kansas take an opimion that agrees with their reality more than it does with actual fact. Merrill makes empirical points that these people don't want to accept because it questions their OPINIONS. The dumbing down of this culture has led to the flippant comments that I see on many postings throughout LJW.COM disregarding facts.

My facts: the wetlands were part of the original Haskell campus purchased with U.S. Treasury Okayed tribal monies between 1884 and 1902. The wetlands flooded constantly until non-Indian officials ordered Indian students to put down the tiles to make the water flow faster out of the flooded areas. The Haskell students dug the drainage canals to the Wakarusa. The tiling allowed some farming but the crops were often ruined by the constant flooding in the time before the 1951 flood and the subsequent construction of Clinton Lake.

I've been past the Chilocco Indian School Campus where the farming program was transferred in 1934. The land was left fallow and went dry from time to time as does the wetlands area south of the Town of Trading Post near Pleasonton Kansas on U.S. 69. The water table in the wetlands is high. Try farming under these conditions.

Baker University circumvented the stipulations put forth in the Surplus Indian School Lands Act of 1962 U.S.C. Title 25 Chapter 7 Section 293a by laundering the land through the Health Education and Welfare Department. Baker's actions should led to the lands being returned to Haskell. Like the 19th century, federal laws are ignored by states concerned with progress?.

No money, no improvement in state revenue, budget cuts. This road is no longer in the realm of affordability to finished.

puddleglum 8 years, 2 months ago

ha. I wished the article was about the land acquisition and how much money was blown on the western half of the slt....and who was involved? exactly why was this land bought, without the final eastern leg even figured out? and why was everything done so quickly?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.