The state is awaiting a court decision that could finally clear the way for completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway, but highway officials want to be ready to get to work when the decision arrives.
To that end, the Kansas Department of Transportation has a couple of items on this week’s Lawrence City Commission agenda.
The plan to construct an SLT interchange at the intersection with Bob Billings Parkway can move ahead regardless of the decision from the 10th District Circuit Court of Appeals. In fact, KDOT hopes to begin buying right of way for the project later this year and be ready to start construction in 2014. Although the city will be asked to contribute about $2 million to build the interchange, most of the $17 million project will be funded as part of the state’s comprehensive transportation program.
That’s good news for both local governments and local drivers. State officials had indicated earlier that the state might not be able to fund the interchange unless it instituted some kind of toll system for the trafficway, which also is Kansas Highway 10. After a survey drew a decidedly negative response to making the SLT a toll road, the state rethought its plan.
Concerns voiced by some local residents about the additional traffic that this interchange likely will put on Bob Billings Parkway and 15th Street are understandable, but this additional SLT access point will provide an important gateway to Kansas University, as well as growing KU and business interests west of Wakarusa Drive.
On Tuesday, city commissioners also will be asked to sign documents to clear the way for the long-awaited completion of the SLT east of Iowa Street. KDOT has combined the four-lane SLT construction project with the reconstruction of 31st Street through the Baker Wetlands and the extension of 31st Street to O’Connell Road in hope of attracting lower construction bids for the entire project. The 31st Street extension, which is expected to cost about $5 million will be paid for by the city.
Both of these projects will provide significant improvements for motorists traveling in and around Lawrence. It’s also notable that both projects include recreational components. The hike and bike path that already runs along the SLT will be accommodated at the new interchange and extended with the trafficway’s eastern leg all the way to O’Connell Road with connections to Haskell Avenue, the Baker Wetlands, Mary’s Lake and Broken Arrow Park.
Documents accompanying the City Commission’s Tuesday agenda include an SLT timeline that begins in 1964. It’s been a long haul. We hope the state’s optimism in moving ahead with these construction plans is rewarded soon by a court decision that allows this project to finally be completed.