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Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2012

SLT milestone

The South Lawrence Trafficway may finally become a reality.

July 12, 2012

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After decades of debate and litigation, it appears the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway finally has cleared its last major hurdle.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that will allow the bypass to be built on a route just south of the existing 31st Street. Although litigation over the ecological and cultural impact of building the SLT through the wetlands area had stalled construction for many years, the court’s strongly worded opinion makes further court appeals unlikely.

Opponents could appeal the decision to either the full 10th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court, but representatives of the Kansas Department of Transportation say those courts aren’t likely to hear the case because the three-judge panel agreed with highway officials on every count, leaving little grounds for an appeal. Funding to build the road is in place, and KDOT officials say they plan to start construction on the six-mile, four-lane eastern leg by fall of 2013. If all goes as planned, the road could be open for traffic by fall 2016.

Barring further court action, this could be the beginning of the end for a long and expensive chapter in Lawrence and Douglas County history. An SLT ballot question that went to voters in 1990 estimated the cost of building a two-lane bypass from the Kansas Turnpike west of Lawrence to Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence at about $42 million. The state estimated that building a four-lane highway at that time would cost about $50.5 million. Now, KDOT officials estimate it will cost $150 million to build just the eastern leg of the SLT.

The bitter battle between proponents and opponents of the SLT also has been costly to the community. Although opponents of the road will be disappointed with Tuesday’s ruling, perhaps they will draw some satisfaction from the extensive wetland mitigation and recreation measures now included in the SLT blueprint.

The community owes its thanks to local, state and federal officials who have continued to pursue plans to build this important transportation link, which will relieve traffic on 23rd Street and complete the southern loop around Lawrence. The eastern leg of the trafficway, which will have interchanges at Iowa Street, Haskell Avenue and Noria Road, will provide key access for businesses at East Hills Business Park and the former Farmland Industries property now being developed by the city. The planned addition of an interchange on 15th Street, on the SLT’s western leg, will provide an important access point to western Lawrence enterprises. The road will be a huge boon for the city’s economic development efforts.

The emotion being felt by many Lawrence leaders today may be less a celebration than a sigh of relief. It’s been a long and unpleasant chapter. Now it’s time to turn the page.

Comments

IdahoWinds 1 year, 9 months ago

The topic of this blog was "SLT Milestone"...and that is what it is. But it works like a ratchet in that every milestone passed gets us one step closer to completion. And with each step closer to completion there is one less opportunity for the plaintiffs to succeed in stopping the road. It sounds like the legal chips have been played, no injunctions, no appeals. Tushcie threatens a "nationwide stink" with Indian Country News and then the same with the Methodist Church. Tuschie doesn't even understand that the UMC no longer has ANY sway with the University. So I guess that leaves the "lying down in front of earthmover and get dragged off to jail" trick. Let me know how that works out for you!?

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Mike Ford 1 year, 9 months ago

nice to hear the uneducated white people speak about the positivity of colonialism....

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thebcman 1 year, 9 months ago

Should have an interchange at Louisiana Street, as well.

What really bothers me is all of this traffic westbound is going to get funneled from the new 4-lane SLT to the current 2-lane western leg. That's gonna suck. Wonder if there is any plan to upgrade the western leg to a 4-lane?

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IdahoWinds 1 year, 9 months ago

And it is frustrating to many others that you don't understand that you are operating on emotion rather than rational thought. Many opponents thought NEPA would prevent the project. Some of them now know that that isn't what NEPA is about. It is essentially a checklist of things to consider - It doesn't say what conclusions need to be made, just that they must be considered. This project will have an impact on the Baker Wetlands, that has never been the issue. But it is also clear that the Wetlands will NOT be destroyed. The SLT will impact less than 10% of the current property. The wetlands will be expanded, they will be quieter due to the noise barrier, they will be more accessible due to 4 new entrances and a 2 mile hike/bike trail, and they will be more informative for the public about the benefits of wetlands all over because of the visitor center. The "wetlands" that will be lost to the road were brome/fescue pasture in 1990. They have been restored to wetlands in the past 15 years. The wetlands that have never been plowed are both 1/2 mile south and will be untouched. According to the staff at Baker University that are managing the mitigation project this area will be a much better wildlife refuge available to the public within a stones throw of Lawrence. Be happy for that and let's move on. Want to know more, stop by their office on N 1250 Rd. and ask them or look at the Baker Wetlands website.

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Sylvie Rueff 1 year, 9 months ago

It makes me sad that people still don't understand this is a bad idea for so many reasons.

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weiser 1 year, 9 months ago

The Indians could not have cared less about that swamp until this issue popped up way back when.

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Gotland 1 year, 9 months ago

If all you “environmentalists” A.K.A . anti-growth elitists still want a pet project I am accepting donations to leave my hose on in the back yard.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 9 months ago

It's just so much fun to keep coming back to this story to read the sputtering and hyperbole of the disappointed losers.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 9 months ago

"Haskell" fell into its 'evolutionary' place.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 9 months ago

With the new road, opportunities to continue to develop the old Farmland site are available. We lost a place for employment there last year due to no access to major roads.

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gccs14r 1 year, 9 months ago

The SLT isn't needed. This was all about KDOT not wanting to admit it was wrong, and a bunch of tax leeches wanting to force through a road project so they could sell land at inflated prices and get the paving contracts. Screwing over Haskell was just a bonus.

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average 1 year, 9 months ago

Curious if using the "bridge to nowhere" is still planned. Assuming that there will be more commerce on the south side of that intersection in time, it's sad that the bridge was built with no good way for pedestrians to get from north to south. If it had been built even 3 or 4 years later, KDOT would have planned room for a sidewalk underneath (just as a matter of design standard).

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

"An SLT ballot question that went to voters in 1990 estimated the cost of building a two-lane bypass from the Kansas Turnpike west of Lawrence to Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence at about $42 million. The state estimated that building a four-lane highway at that time would cost about $50.5 million. Now, KDOT officials estimate it will cost $150 million to build just the eastern leg of the SLT."

This is idiotic whining. These increases in cost are mostly due to inflation, not to real increases in the cost of construction.

And it also fails to note that the money allocated for the entire route ended up being spent on the western leg only, simply because the real costs were low-balled (in part because of the too large payouts for right-of-way to movers and shakers who had bought up property along that route.)

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 1 year, 9 months ago

Now lets focus on getting the East Lawrence Bypass in motion.

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Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

Maybe we should defund Haskell by 5% for every year they have delayed this project.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 9 months ago

Can't wait for the next. McDonald's. At. 31st. and Haskell

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manginorh00lz 1 year, 9 months ago

Now everybody can thank Haskell and Bob Eye for wasting everybody's time and money! The damage they have caused is immeasurable.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 9 months ago

But a decrease of traffic On 23rd won't be a reality

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