Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2012

SLT milestone

The South Lawrence Trafficway may finally become a reality.

July 12, 2012


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.


David Holroyd 5 years, 11 months ago

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

LogicMan 5 years, 11 months ago

Passing through big rig truck traffic should decrease. And more cars will go to Iowa Street to get to KU, instead of taking 23rd.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

There is very little pass-through traffic on 23rd now-- those big rigs that have no reason to be on 23rd St. already bypass Lawrence.

But once this is completed, coupled with the completion of the 4-lane 59, the truck traffic on both highways will be many, many times greater than it currently is. Folks commuting from west Lawrence to KC, may find the five miles of new expressway a little faster than their current route, but it will come with the cost of a huge increase in truck traffic along their daily commute. Those commuting to and from Ottawa will also see much greater truck traffic.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

"But once this is completed, coupled with the completion of the 4-lane 59, the truck traffic on both highways will be many, many times greater than it currently is."

I don't see how. Anyone trying to get from Ottawa to KC or the other way will take I-35. I also don't see the appeal of taking 10 to Lawrence, then a 2-lane loop around town, only to connect with the Turnpike, when one could just get on the Turnpike to begin with and use the much higher speed limit and extra lanes for the whole trip.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Trucks in southern Johnson County wanting to go West are not going to head north through all the congested city traffic when they can head straight west on K-10, and connect with I-70 west of Lawrence to continue west. Same goes for trucks going the reverse direction.

Trucks going from Ottawa to a KC destination will likely continue to use I-35. But they can use US59 to K-10 to either K-7 or 435 north, which will become a welcome bypass around KC, especially during busy traffic hours-- the reverse course will be inviting for exactly the same reasons.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

You don't think those JoCo trucks would prefer to take 435, rather than 10? Three lanes is better than two.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Some will, but a whole lot of them won't, especially since that allows them to avoid the first 25 miles of tolls on the turnpike.

It's just a simple fact about building new roads-- it doesn't reduce traffic, it attracts it. So while that five mile section of the commute through the wetlands from W. Lawrence to KC/JOCO and reverse will be a little faster, the net result along the entire length of K-10 (and US 59) will be greatly increased traffic, especially trucks.

average 5 years, 11 months ago

There is currently very little through big-rig truck traffic on 23rd. Really. Look at the state traffic counts... there are more semis on some 2-lane roads in the state than on K-10 between JO and DG. I've looked at truckers mapping software. Anywhere in Johnson county east of K-7 to anywhere west of Lawrence? They tell you to take K-7 or 435.

There are some semis. They overwhelmingly have Lawrence destinations.

And, in fact, the SLT will have plenty of semi traffic. If it exists, lots of Johnson County to Topeka routes would move to it instead of the turnpike. Not saying that's good or bad. Possibly it will serve to moderate speeds on the existing K-10.

It will serve also to smooth the ride for the substantial number of drivers (and semis) going between K-10 and south Iowa St. destinations who currently take Haskell and 31st. A couple of stoplights and some 31st street improvements would do that too, for 1/10th the cost.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

The biggest improvement in traffic conditions will be on I-70 and I-35, as traffic, especially truck traffic, is diverted from those highways.

average 5 years, 11 months ago

Yes. The changes to broader traffic patterns go way beyond Lawrence local concerns. Right now, really-through (Denver<->St Louis) semis largely go through the downtown loop of Kansas City and by Arrowhead (at night if they can). A complete no-stop SLT and the direct route is SLT-K10-435-470. KDOT/MoDot are working to get 435 up to speed for this eventuality. Many more lanes on 435 already, and still more expandable than any widening in downtown KC.

Let alone if there's even more traffic to the southeast when the conversion from US-71 to I-49 is complete.

The broader implications are why KDOT really wants to get this done. If it was just about Lawrence commuters getting peevy, they wouldn't have taken on the fight they have.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps it has to do with Ex-Gov Graves, whose family made their fortune in the trucking business, and is now head of the National Truckers Organization (or whatever it's called) and KDOT has long geared its projects towards what's good for the trucking industry (who have lots of lobbyists in their hire) and not necessarily what's good for everyone else.

asixbury 5 years, 11 months ago

The interstate system was developed specifically with semi's in mind, so of course their concerns will matter when these decisions are made.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 months ago

Bozo - must there always be a conspiracy or someone gaming or working the system to screw someone else?? Couldn't it be that KDOT is working for the good of the people???

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

They're highway builders doing what they do, and it just so happens there are a lot of very vested, very special interests spending a lot of money hiring lobbyists (many of whom have passed through the KDOT revolving door) to lobby both KDOT and legislators (who also get campaign contributions) to build them in ways that best suit them.

Is it a conspiracy? Depends on your definition, I guess. But if you're unaware of how this aspect of government works, and how private money lubricates it to move in the "right" directions, you're more naive than I previously thought.

Do you think Ex-Gov Graves would even have the job he currently holds if he didn't understand how much the trucking industry depends on controlling government policy and spending?

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 months ago

And thus Bozo eventually answers the question (Something that Tuschie can never bring himself to do) and Bozo's answer is - YES, it is a conspiracy. You just have to tweak the definition sometimes, but yes it is always a conspiracy. Thank you , Bozo.

And by the way, just because the branch of government you work in operates that way does not mean they all do, so I would say you are speculating.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

I doubt if many people will go a couple of miles west to pick up the bypass, only to get stuck in single-file traffic all the way around town, just to avoid 23rd.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

They don't do that now. They take the Turnpike. Anybody getting off at 197 to go through/around Lawrence to get to OP is an idiot.

asixbury 5 years, 11 months ago

How about people on the west side of Lawrence? This will be of great use for those on that side of town who travel to KC for work. Then there's HWY 40 from Topeka, which will also be useful when it connects to K-10. Turnpikes cost money to drive on, so many daily commuters will avoid it.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

U.S. 40? A twisty, hilly 2-lane with no shoulders, limited sight lines, and a zillion driveways is a poor excuse for a highway. The fewer people on that road, the better. I know people who commute to Lawrence from Topeka and they all use the Turnpike. It's faster and safer and those factors more than make up the cost of the toll.

I don't forsee a lot of westsiders using the SLT to get to KC unless the other two lanes are installed on the western leg. Even then, having to backtrack a few miles to get to the bypass makes little sense. The road speed may be higher, but the added distance wil make the total trip time a wash.

asixbury 5 years, 11 months ago

You don't have to back track, if you take 31st to connect to it. I am on the westside, and my husband and I both will be using this a lot. Hwy 40 is more convenient than the interstate for those that live on the eastside and southside of Topeka. I use it all the time to travel to Topeka, since it is a more direct-route from my house than the interstate. Than there are people, like myself, that perfer taking highways than interstates for several different reasons. Just because you won't use it, does not mean it won't be useful.

Like someone posted already, the real reason behind this connector is for the farmland and easthills business areas.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 months ago

Gee, and all this time we thought gccs14r knew what they were talking about. Ha!

number3of5 5 years, 11 months ago

So you think the Native Americans standing up for their rights is a waste of time?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

No, he thinks Native Americans have no rights (and sadly, he may be right.)

LogicMan 5 years, 11 months ago

A small casino and hotel by/for the benefit of Haskell?

And a truck stop.

Liberty275 5 years, 11 months ago

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

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Hey, the transfer of their land to Baker was in at least indirect violation of the treaties the US Govt made with the various tribes for whom Haskell was established-- why not just be childish and petty as L275 suggests, and totally defund Haskell, in direction violation of treaty obligations?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 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.)

average 5 years, 11 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).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Its purpose was to force the issue of completing the highway through the Haskell Wetlands, not to effectively deal with pedestrians who might want to walk under it.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 months ago

KDOT has already determined that the bridge needs to be replaced. Just sitting has worn it out.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 11 months ago

yah, I think that's what happened to me, too.

gccs14r 5 years, 11 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.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 11 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.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 months ago

Kdot determined that the economic benefit of completing the SLT would be over $3 billion to Lawrence. How were they able to come up with such a high number? It was not to make commuters lives happier as Bozo would want us to believe. As "Can't" said above, East Hills and Farmland have had difficulty attracting businesses to the area due to the lack of transportation infrastructure. Many of you are arguing about the trucks coming from elsewhere just to go around...the biggest source of those trucks is likely to be to and from businesses in Lawrence. This project was determined to have the LARGEST economic benefit to the region as any other single project included in the 10 year T-Works plan. Some of you need to do some research instead of just speculating based on your own feelings.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 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.

Sylvie Rueff 5 years, 11 months ago

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

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Translation-- all that was required was some sort of legalistic jumping through of hoops to create a veneer of legitimacy so that the total lack of respect for the history of the land and Haskell's wishes for it could be swept under the rug.

So now, hoops have been jumped, and the Injunz should learn to shut up and get out the way of the movers and shakers, just like God intended.

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 months ago

You really have no idea what the road proponents think...they are just as diverse in their rationale for the road as the plaintiffs are in the fight against the road. So, quit speculating.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

It was originally intended to be 4 lane, but because they so low-balled the original estimates, and overspent buying up right-of-way from well-connected speculators, they had to settle for two-lanes. (These are the same oft-quoted initial estimates that were even supposed to build the eastern leg, too. But including that little tidbit of truth doesn't allow for blaming opponents for all the "costly delays." Lying bastards.)

Mike Ford 5 years, 11 months ago

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

IdahoWinds 5 years, 11 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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