Letters to the Editor

Highway costs

July 7, 2011


To the editor:

In less than two weeks, Douglas County will close 31st Street between Louisiana and Haskell Avenue. They’ll spend nearly $400,000 repaving the same section of road Kansas officials express overwhelming confidence will be removed as soon as the appeals court rules favorably on their SLT “32nd Street Plan.” That money would fill a lot of potholes.

The approved SLT plan requires moving 31st (widened to four lanes) beside the trafficway. It’ll be separated from the SLT by a $1 million concrete wall 12 feet high. There’ll be jobs created (for three weeks) from this thrifty investment of your taxes and still more employment excavating those freshly paved shoulders. Brilliant fiscal conservatism!

The SLT itself is being designed to eventually accommodate six lanes. It would complete a six-lane thoroughfare from Topeka to Johnson County. Lawrence is already six lanes to Topeka. Widening Highway 10 from Johnson County to Lawrence is in advanced design phase. That 10-lane wetland wrecker will eventually cost substantially more than $192 million, but who’s counting — or paying attention?

This and the nearly finished freeway to Ottawa, must be reassuring news for SRS recipients. They’ll soon be able to access the three nearest SRS offices in Overland Park, Ottawa and Topeka on these truckways. With such “improvements” perhaps speed limits can be “safely” raised to 90 mph. Thanks to Brownback’s and KDOT’s forward thinking, these needy Kansans could soon make SRS appointments nearly as fast as when that agency was still located in town — if hitchhiking is legalized.


nativeson 6 years, 8 months ago

Given Mr. Caron's consistent opposition to the SLT, I am not sure where to start regarding his comments.

1) The costs to maintain 31st street are definitely excessive. That is because of the lack of the SLT for the last 20 years and the use of 31st street as a defacto trafficway. It was never designed to handle the traffic it now moves daily.

2) A $200 million price tag is expensive. Again, it would have cost taxpayers less than 50% of this cost had it been built when originally designed in the late 1980s. This was blocked by many including Mr. Caron.

3) I am not sure how those in need of SRS services relate to this issue. Closing the Lawrence office is unfortunate, and it is certainly politically motivated. However, it is clear that the SLT is needed for the entire road system of NE Kansas. The scheduled intermodal and logistics park to be built in Gardner will overwhelm Lawrence with more trucks trying to go West from K 10 in the coming years without this road.

Residents of Lawrence living in East Lawrence south of 19th street have suffered 25 years of traffic on their side streets and arterials due to increasing commuter traffic from Lawrence to Overland Park. The City of Lawrence is required to fund increasing street repair on roads with traffic well in excess of their design. Many homeowners are cut off from most of the city for several hours a day during the working week due to gridlock on 23rd street. This is not an acceptable quality of life for those residents.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

I think the point is about priorities.

The current administration seems willing to spend hundreds of millions on roads, while cutting several hundred thousand by closing SRS offices (that savings may in fact be quite overstated and not include many of the costs of changing the system).

While roads may be important - if times are tough, I'd think we should keep services to those less fortunate, and postpone expensive roadwork until times get better.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

"postpone expensive roadwork"

Have you ever noticed that potholes are just about as effective as speed bumps in getting drivers to slow down to something like the speed limit?

Cronus 6 years, 8 months ago

And Mr. Caron is not politically motivated?

A note on the SRS in Lawrence...even for law enforcement, the SRS office is the least responsive organization in the city. They sometimes do not return calls for days; and on other occasions have to be re-called to get a response. A shake-up may be a good thing.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

Unless, of course, the reason that they're not as quick to respond as we'd like has to do with staffing and caseloads.

My wife works with SRS fairly often, and has told me that they're understaffed and overworked - the solution to that would be to increase their funding.

vlivs 6 years, 8 months ago

Most people who need SRS services get better results by talking to someone in person. Transportation is a problem within town, much less to Ottawa, OP or Topeka. We'll see how happy Health Care Access, the library and other organizations are about teaching these patrons how to use their computers. This is a slap at people in need, plain and simple, as well as at Lawrence.

Joe Hyde 6 years, 8 months ago

It was publicized so long ago that few remember this now, but KDOT engineering studies initially recommended against building a K-10 South Lawrence Bypass.

KDOT's reasoning was based on projections that a western Lawrence development boom would be encouraged by the freeway. This development boom would increase the population of Lawrence (commuters moving here while still working jobs in Topeka and Kansas City). The resulting population increase would put more vehicles on 23rd St. and severely aggravate its congestion -- not reduce its congestion.

Ah, but then Gov. Bill Graves got elected. Soon thereafter KDOT officials reversed their stand and approved the Trafficway's western leg. (23rd Street congestion be damned; the governor wants that real estate development boom!)

Why wasn't the entire Trafficway built in one shot? Because of local common-sense opposition to the plan from the very beginning. But the proponents all assumed that Haskell INU officials and others would see the Trafficway's western leg getting built and feel powerless to do anything but cave in to developer's interests in completing the Trafficway's southern leg.

That assumption was ill-advised.

IdahoWinds 6 years, 8 months ago

Joe, You are using urban myth to develop your own version of history. Think about it - since when would KDOT not want to build a road because it would further increase traffic somewhere else? Do you honestly believe that? And further, do you believe that Bill Graves wanted KDOT to build the SLT to cause more traffic on 23rd st? Former Gov. Graves knew that US 59 was going to be expanded to 4 lanes in the not so distant future and he knew that it didn't make sense to dump a whole bunch of trucks onto Iowa St. He was thinking ahead about where those trucks could efficiently get around Lawrence. Completing the SLT was part of the rationale for widening US 59. They didn't expect US59 to get finished before the SLT. And yeah, instead of having Bozo on the bus, let's throw him under it - he and his cronies are the main reason the cost of completing the SLT is so much more than it was initially.

Joe Hyde 6 years, 8 months ago

Urban myth? Please check the Journal-World's news archives from the time before the SLT's construction began; you'll discover that I'm accurately relating local history, not perpetrating a myth.

IdahoWinds 6 years, 8 months ago

I stand by my statement. You are going on what you believe you read rather than reality. Use some common sense and you would see through the haze. What you are suggesting is just not the way it happened. It is easy to claim "conspiracy" (which is what you are suggesting) but to prove it is much more difficult because it usually isn't true to begin with.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

Bill Graves is a trucking magnate, and current head shill for the trucking industry. Did he see that as a conflict of interest? No, when it comes to pavement, he's never had any interest except one-- promoting truckways wherever possible, including the SLT.

IdahoWinds 6 years, 8 months ago

And this is a problem how? He was not "current head shill for the trucking industry". Kathleen Sebelius did well by health care issues while governor - do we slam her about it now that she is Secr of Health and Human Services? Just because it isn't what you agree with does not always make it wrong for everyone...just you.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

In 1971 the State Highway Commission recommended a bypass for Lawrence to be built south of the Wakarusa river. The bypass is far more practical for future highway demands. Douglas County might needs a bypass not a trafficway.

As a matter of practicality could KDOT consider two different proposals?

Number One: Scrap all other plans.

The 32nd street plan will continue to be opposed that is a given. The 42nd street plan will come with stiff opposition from the original proponents of the 32nd street plan. This is a given as Bob Johnson has stated publicly.

KDOT could then proceed to add two more lanes to the existing western leg thus safer travel for all users. Four lanes would likely draw more new traffic to I-70 which would be good.

Proceeding forward with the western leg could accomplish several things: • A George Williams Way(15th Street) interchange • A safer desighn for the YSI athletic fields • Ultimately much safer travel between Iowa and I-70

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Number two:

Spend tax dollars on a more practical application for this point in time. Introduce appropriate plans designed to meet the future needs of four counties.

Bring Johnson,Douglas,Jefferson and Leavenworth county leaders together and suggest all assist in funding bridges across the Kansas River.

Residents and business of all four counties would benefit from the project. Also making additional use of I-70 again is fiscally responsible.

SAY NO to the high tax dollar obsolete Trafficway that will NOT improve 23rd street. The only way to improve 23rd is to SAY NO to KU students…… good luck on removing the ONLY dependable Lawrence revenue source. KU students make Lawrence what it is.

SAY YES to a no tax dollar bypass that can accomplish many things such as saving tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to a phone conversation HNTB consultants did study a South Of River route that would avoid the wetlands completely. It would connect to an existing K-10 interchange 1057/E1900 rd. Absolutely this option completely avoided the wetlands.

This could be a toll road thereby users, to include 18 wheelers, become a defacto benefit district.

This design was never presented to the public. Why did the proponents not want this design? Not enough pork barrel perhaps?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce home to the best of pork barrel thinking...

Also known as the $300 million trafficway that includes $100 million sewage treatment plant.

Add $400 million = a $700 million pork barrel project.

$700 million could fix every street in Lawrence. In addition it could rehab and widen every sidewalk in the older neighborhoods. Thus thousands of local property owners would in essence get some of their tax dollars back by way of their own sidewalks and streets.

Now the pork barrel experts are deep into our pockets without our voter approval for projects that a fair number of taxpayers will rarely use. Let's put pork barrel back into the neighborhoods where the tax dollars originated.

All about local development and the impact on local taxpayers and our community( a republican point of view) http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/f ... _americans

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

The $200 million trafficway plus a $100 million sewage treatment plant plus the $400 million 31st project = a $700 million pork barrel project for the local real estate home building industry = local big corporate welfare.

Our city's current budget crunch could easily be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments. The community is way over extended in this regard.

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

Not only that Lawrence population numbers are dropping and gasoline prices are way higher than a year ago. Tax increases are on the increase. Market values on homes continue to drop and there is no light at the end of this tunnel. Commuters may need to move sooner than later.

People are losing jobs in this area with machine gun rapidity.

Shouldn't the city/county put OUR tax dollars back into existing resources aka the neighborhoods INSTEAD OF EXPANDING or adding on to the list of tax dollar responsibilities with miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of new anything?

Maintaining existing resources also creates new jobs and adds new $$$$ value to existing neighborhoods. A sound investment.

lunacydetector 6 years, 8 months ago

you'd think this guy is some government worker or something, the way he and his cohorts have dragged on and delayed this SLT business for over 20 years.

just chalk up the $400,000 repave project he complains about as an unnecessary expense caused by himself.

weeslicket 6 years, 8 months ago

good post from riverat. an important reminder.

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