Editorial: Finish the road
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
The Kansas Department of Transportation’s announcement that it will begin a supplemental environmental impact study on the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, the study hails the start of the much-needed effort to expand Kansas Highway 10 to four lanes from the intersection with U.S. Highway 59 to North 1800 Road. On the other hand, it was the environmental impact study that ultimately prompted a 20-year delay in the completion of the eastern portion of the trafficway. The environmental impact study prompted federal lawsuits over whether the road would improperly damage the environmental and cultural significance of the Baker and Haskell wetlands in the area.
Here’s hoping there will be less debate this time around. One would think that would be the case, given that the western portion of the trafficway has already been constructed and that the project is focused on expansion to four lanes and other improvements.
The study will review the 19 miles of the K-10 corridor from North 1800 Road, known locally as the Farmer’s Turnpike, to the highway’s intersection with East 23rd Street. The study will examine the environmental consequences of possible highway improvements and their benefits, including the expansion to four lanes the remaining 4.5 miles of trafficway that is still just two lanes.
Other improvements include replacement of the at-grade highway crossing at Wakarusa Drive and alternatives to the current Lecompton interchange at K-10 and Interstate 70. One alternative to be studied is replacing the existing K-10/I-70 interchange with one at I-70 and East 600 Road.
Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Laurie Arellano said this summer that the K-10 west leg expansion was one of the “emerging needs” to be considered for inclusion in a new state highway transportation plan that focuses on a list of 23 state highway projects in the state’s current plan that have not been completed yet.
The public will be able to provide input on the improvements through planned surveys and focus group meetings. Gov. Jeff Colyer has appointed a task force to make recommendations to the Kansas Legislature next session on what should be funded in the state’s next transportation plan. The task force will tour the state and hold public hearings this fall, Arellano said.
The South Lawrence Trafficway is critical infrastructure that is key to traffic flow through and around Lawrence and to connecting southern Johnson County to Topeka and western Kansas. It is an important project from a safety perspective and it should be high on the state’s list of priorities.