Transportation plan to include major changes to local roadways; public input period to begin soon

The west leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway, looking northwest from the Iowa Street junction, is shown in this file photo from June 2017.

Several large projects are on the radar as local planners prepare to update the area’s transportation plan, including major additions to local roadways.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating its long-range transportation plan. The plan, Transportation 2040, will lay out the major street, highway and pedestrian projects for the next two decades and will be completed in coming months.

Senior Transportation Planner Jessica Mortinger said they know the community is growing, and the plan looks at how transportation infrastructure can accommodate future population growth beyond the scope of the city and county’s capital improvement plans.

“We look at how our networks are going to function and what type of projects we need to be looking at to be proactive in addressing transportation issues that we can estimate might happen,” Mortinger said.

The MPO updates the plan every five years, and includes a list of transportation projects, their costs, funding sources and timeframes for their completion. Mortinger said a draft project list is still being compiled, but that there are several large projects being considered. Those include projects that would increase the capacity or extend some of the area’s major roadways, such as the South Lawrence Trafficway, Wakarusa Drive and 31st Street.

Timelines and price tags for the projects are still preliminary, but a summary is as follows:

• Widening of the west leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway: Widen the SLT from two to four lanes from the I-70 junction to Iowa Street junction. The stretch of the SLT is approximately 8.5 miles long.

•Wakarusa Drive extension: Extend Wakarusa Drive from a planned Kansas Highway 10 interchange to Route 458 (N. 1200 Road). The project would include construction of a new bridge over the Wakarusa River.

• 31st Street extension: Construct a new two-lane 31st Street from O’Connell Road to Noria Road, also known as E. 1750 Road. The new stretch of road would be approximately 1.5 miles long.

The plan will make recommendations for all modes of transportation, including automobile, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian. Mortinger said the plan pulls together the transportation and financial plans — including pedestrian infrastructure plans — from the state, county and city into a cohesive document.

“This plan is really to pull it all together and look at the big picture of how our transportation networks and systems are performing,” Mortinger said.

MPO has already begun collecting feedback from residents, and Mortinger said non-automobile transportation is a recurring issue throughout Douglas County.

“Definitely, in the public engagement that we’ve heard, we’re hearing increased desire for improved multi-modal transportation options,” Mortinger said. “For example, people want increased bicycle and pedestrian amenities.”

Mortinger said the update to the plan, which is a federal requirement, must be complete by March 2018. Residents will have another opportunity this month to provide input about the areas of transportation infrastructure.

An online survey will launch Nov. 13, as will a series of open houses throughout the area. Information about the open houses is as follows:

• 4:30-6:30 p.m. Nov. 13, Baldwin City Public Library, 800 Seventh St., Baldwin City

• 4:30-6:30 p.m. Nov. 14, Eudora Community Center, 1630 Elm St., Eudora

• 3-5 p.m. Nov. 16, Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., Lawrence

• 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 17, Aunt Netters Café, 336 Elmore St., Lecompton

• 5-7 p.m. Nov. 21, Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., Lawrence