Regional support for the South Lawrence Trafficway makes it a likely candidate for state funding in 2013.
In response to the $8 billion transportation bill the state legislature approved last spring, the Kansas Department of Transportation has spent the past two-and-half months hosting workshops to gauge what projects residents want to fund first.
One that continued to surface to the top was the SLT, a four-lane road that would extend the existing highway seven miles from U.S. Highway 59 to Kansas Highway 10.
For almost a decade, state and local officials have been planning for the road, but have been at a loss when it came to finding money to pay for the project. The proposed road has also been controversial because it threatens to destroy part of the Baker Wetlands, opponents say.
“It’s a project that has been needed for a very long time and one we still believe necessary to handle congestion of east to west traffic,” Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx said. “I believe as we look into the future it is going to be needed a lot more as growth happens and things pick up.”
At one of KDOT’s workshops in Kansas City in early October, the $188 million South Lawrence Trafficway project was at the top of the list for funding. The northeast region is expected to receive between $500 million and $800 million.
“The completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway was one of the highest ranking projects coming out of the discussions,” Lawrence Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard said.
KDOT spokeswoman Kimberly Qualls said it just wasn’t Lawrence officials who backed the project.
“For people traveling from Topeka and back and forth as far as Manhattan, it’s another corridor to have access to Kansas City,” Qualls said.
Other popular projects in the region included upgrades to the section of Interstate 70 that cuts through downtown Topeka, the I-70 and Kansas Highway 7 interchange in Wyandotte County, and the Johnson County gateway at Interstate 435, Interstate 35 and K-10.
KDOT plans to take the feedback it has received from the workshops throughout the state and create a list of the top projects in Kansas. That list is expected to be released in February or March.
“It will be a hard, physical list of projects that will be funded,” Qualls said. The $1.7 billion to go toward expansion and modernization projects, which the South Lawrence Trafficway would fall under, will be available by 2013.
As for now, KDOT continues to work on the preliminary design for the South Lawrence Trafficway, which will align along 32nd Street. The state agency is also acquiring small pieces of right-of-way to build the road.
“We have a line on a paper and not much else at this point,” Qualls said.