Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2012

State transportation officials abandon idea of tolls on South Lawrence Trafficway

January 5, 2012, 2:27 p.m. Updated January 5, 2012, 4:09 p.m.


The Kansas Department of Transportation has decided against making any portion of the South Lawrence Trafficway a toll road, the agency announced Thursday.

KDOT leaders were exploring making the SLT — which if completed will connect Interstate 70 west of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence — a toll road.

But KDOT said a survey of area motorists found that even a minimal toll would have reduced the number of motorists who would have used the bypass. In fact, KDOT determined that the number of users of the SLT would drop to the point that a new environmental impact statement would be required for the western half of the trafficway — which is scheduled to begin construction in fall 2013, if the state prevails in a lawsuit regarding the route of the road through the Baker Wetlands.

“Reopening the EIS would require that the scheduled letting date in the fall of 2013 be put on hold indefinitely, resulting in significant delay to the project and substantial increases in construction costs,” said Acting KDOT Secretary Barb Rankin. “KDOT is committed to delivering this project on time and on budget.”

KDOT had proposed using toll money to fund an interchange for the SLT where it intersects with Bob Billings Parkway. KDOT leaders said they will work with Douglas County and the city of Lawrence to develop an alternate funding package for that interchange. But Josh Powers, a spokesman for KDOT said that local and state officials haven’t yet come up with ideas on how to fund the interchange, which has an estimated price tag of $17 million. Powers confirmed that KDOT learned in mid-December that the project was not selected for a federal grant program that would have paid for much of the project.

“But we do think it would be an important interchange,” Powers said. “That is the direction growth is heading, and it is absolutely a gateway area.”

The KDOT survey did show some support for tolls. In fact, one question found that 67 percent of respondents would be willing to pay a toll to use the SLT, if the toll were the same as charged by the Kansas Turnpike. Another question found 71 percent would be willing to pay a toll of around 50 cents. But the survey also found that without the toll 86 percent of respondents would have used the trafficway.

Powers said the potential reduction in motorists using the SLT was a key consideration in not moving forward. One of the justifications for the $150 million bypass project is to reduce the amount of traffic on 23rd and 31st streets in Lawrence. If a toll made it more likely that motorists would remain on the local streets, a legal argument could be made that the Environmental Impact Statement for the project would have to be reopened.

“We have to be very sensitive to that,” Powers said.

Currently the western half of the project — the portion from Iowa Street to the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike — is built. But the eastern half of the project is unbuilt and the subject of a federal lawsuit. Environmentalists and Native American tribes have filed a lawsuit arguing the federal government erred in issuing permits to allow the road to be built through the Baker Wetlands. The permit process has been upheld by a federal court, but the case currently is on appeal at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for mid-January.


DanR 6 years, 2 months ago

I was called as part of that phone survey, and it was a whole lot of fun answering those questions. I was polite, but I'm sure the survey takers got quite an earful from some folks.

gccs14r 6 years, 2 months ago

The western half is only half-built. It's supposed to be four lanes, not two. The whole thing could have been built a long time ago if there weren't an insistence on the part of KDOT to ram it through the wetlands. BTW, Google Maps has what it thinks is the proposed route available on its site. It's even dumber than what one might expect.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 2 months ago

DanR, I also got the survey call. I told them that if they stopped wasting money on poorly worded survey questions, perhaps they wouldn't need a toll. The questions were ridiculous & so was the whole toll concept.

coderob 6 years, 2 months ago

It's better to have some public input than end up with a multi-million dollar tollway no one uses.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, heaven forbid the people who are screaming that the road just Has to be built because its so terribly inconvenient to take any of the myriad other routes from KC to suburbia should actually be willing to pay for the convenience. People have been saying for decades that it takes 15-30 minutes to cross Lawrence, yet they are unwilling to pay fifty cents or a buck to save that time. I guess they must work for two or four bucks an hour, since losing a half hour a day in their commute isn't worth a buck.

RKLOG 6 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Lawrence_Pilot 6 years, 2 months ago

Great post! Exactly...only people who use it should pay. Same as the turnpike. Yet these surveys show the complainers won't pay up? No surprise there.

I flagged the other response to your post...just offensive background noise with nothing redeeming to say.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 2 months ago

So, is it a bypass or a traffic way? There's a difference. A traffic way is a local expressway for moving local traffic. A bypass is for long distance travelers who want to avoid local traffic.

LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago

"Currently the western half of the project — the portion from Iowa Street to the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike — is built."

Well, yes and no. I'd say the western quarter. It already needs to be expanded to the planned two-lanes each way. At least, for 2014, truck lanes on that big hill by Clinton Lake will be desperately needed.

Is the eastern part also to be only two lanes total, or will they put in four immediately?

billbodiggens 6 years, 2 months ago

Why does not KDOT do like KDOT has done in other parts of the state on a regular basis. Simply require the local municipalities to chip in with big cash if the locals want the improvement. Problem solved. But, on the other hand that would take another 50 years for the local municipalities to decide that issues. I'll bet, however, that if they would ask the other counties in Kansas to contribute with special tax money it may pass just to get Douglas County and Lawrence to shut up and build the stupid thing already.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm curious as to how long I will continue to pay $1.65 toll to get to KC? Anyone know?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.