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Business prepares to move to make way for South Lawrence Trafficway; details and speculation about what else the SLT may bring

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Construction on the South Lawrence Trafficway is still at least six months away from getting started, but signs of the coming changes already are starting to show up.

The one known business that will have to relocate due to the SLT recently has signed a deal for a new southeast Lawrence location. The business formerly known as RSC Equipment Rental will move to 930 E. 30th St., which is the space that used to be the parking lot and maintenance facility for the city’s public transit buses.

RSC Equipment Rental now goes by the name of United Rentals, after the RSC chain of stores was purchased by United recently. The company rents aerial lifts and other types of construction equipment.

The company plans to use the existing 5,000-square-foot building on the site, but it will undergo about $250,000 worth of remodeling, according to plans filed at City Hall. An employee at United told me the move is likely to happen in the next month.

The business now is at the southeast corner of 31st and Haskell. But soon enough, a new road will run through that location. No, the new road won’t be the South Lawrence Trafficway. It will be the new road called 32nd Street, which will be the local road that will run just north of the SLT. It will replace the thinly paved joy of driving that we currently know as 31st Street.

If you have forgotten about that new street, you probably have forgotten about several others. The South Lawrence Trafficway project likely will produce the most change in the city’s street network of any project in decades. Take a look at the map on this page to see the details. Here’s a reminder of what you are looking at:

• A portion of Haskell Avenue will move about 1,000 feet east of where it is today. Haskell will start making its shift to the east at about the point where it intersects with 29th Street today. In other words, right near where Hiper Technologies is located, or — if you are an old timer — where the Honeywell avionics plant used to be. Haskell will shift back to its current alignment before it reaches the Wakarusa River bridge. (At that point the road is actually called County Route 1055 because it is outside the city limits, for all you geography sticklers.)

• The existing portion of Haskell Avenue between 29th Street and the current 31st Street will remain in place to serve as a frontage road for the businesses — such as the new United Rentals building — that are just west of the existing Haskell Avenue.

• The existing 31st Street between Haskell and Louisiana will be removed and the property will be converted back to wetlands. The new 32nd Street — which will be four lanes — will be the local route through the wetlands.

• Louisiana Street south of 31st Street will undergo major changes. The road will be moved a half-mile to the west, in order to get the road farther away from the Baker Wetlands. In other words, if you are driving on Louisiana Street north of 31st Street and want to continue south, you are going to have to turn west onto the new 32nd Street. You’ll take that new road — which turns into the existing portion of 31st Street in the city — for a half-mile. Then you can turn back south onto the new Louisiana Street. The new Louisiana Street eventually will curve back to the east and connect with the existing Louisiana Street (technically E 1400 Road outside the city limits) before it crosses the Wakarusa River. If you are trying to picture where the new Louisiana Street will intersect with 31st Street, it will be just east of the large apartment complex at 31st and Ousdahl.

The state plans to accept bids on the SLT project in September, and construction in the wetlands could be begin this fall. Work on the Haskell and Louisiana parts of the project wouldn’t begin until 2014.

All of these new roads — with the largest, of course, being the new four-lane SLT — will create a lot of question both in the business community and at City Hall. The best way to get a feel for some of them is to go to Google Maps and type in the area of 31st and Louisiana. Zoom in several clicks, and the map will show you the route of the SLT and of the new 32nd, Haskell and Louisiana streets. That map does a good job of highlighting several pieces of property that seemingly will have a lot more development pressure in the near future.

Some properties and questions that jumped out at me include:

• The former Gaslight Mobile Home Park just east of Home Depot. As we have reported, Menards has filed a plan to build a new store on the property, plus have lots for several smaller retailers or restaurants. This is going to be an issue very soon. The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to review the plans in April. In order for the project to be approved, the city is going to have to change its planning documents. The city’s planning documents call for the property to be developed as apartments.

Here’s the question: Will the city stick to those plans when a major retailer clearly wants to be on the site? Now that a new 32nd Street is going to be built just east of the site, the property will be on one of the most highly improved roads in the city. That’s generally where most cities want their retail.

The more political question is whether the City Commission will do everything it can to steer all new retail development to Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway in northwest Lawrence? After all, that is where the city will be investing $25 million for a new recreation center. But Menards has had plenty of opportunities to sign a deal to locate in the existing — and vacant — Mercato development at Sixth and the SLT. Company officials have told the city the site doesn’t meet their current needs. Will the city hold its ground on steering development to Sixth and the SLT, or will it blink?

• The former E&E Display building at 29th and Haskell. That’s a decent size manufacturing/warehouse building with some vacant/underutilized ground near it. When the SLT is built, it really will only be about a minute away from the freeway. I’ll keep my eyes open for some sort of jobs producing deal for that location. If one doesn’t materialize, given its location, economic developers should be asking what’s wrong with our community?

• The vacant ground directly behind Wal-Mart at 33rd and Iowa streets. Until you look on the Google Maps, it is easy to forget about that piece of property. But the map makes it clear that it is one to remember. The ground stretches all the way from the Walmart/Crown Toyota area on the west to the former Printing Solutions building at 31st and Louisiana on the east. The entire piece of property will have great visibility from the South Lawrence Trafficway. As a bonus, the new Louisiana Street will cut through the property as well.

City commissioners talk about the need for planning, but what is the plan for that area? I’m sure there is something in a plan somewhere about that area, but it is an area that hasn’t been talked about by city commissioners for awhile. It would seem — given its location next to major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and others — that the market may have an interest in putting some retail there. Will the city share that interest?

It will be interesting to watch, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one watching. In fact, if you see a tent staked up on that vacant property, that’s my wife. She wants to make sure she doesn’t miss out on any early-bird specials.

A map showing the route for the South Lawrence Trafficway. Courtesy: Kansas Department of Transportation.

A map showing the route for the South Lawrence Trafficway. Courtesy: Kansas Department of Transportation. by Chad Lawhorn

Comments

EarthaKitt 1 year, 8 months ago

There's a wife jab! Hadn't seen one in a few weeks. I thought you had nipped the habit.

LogicMan 1 year, 8 months ago

Chad:

Interesting!

Have you talked with the Wakarusa township folk about their facility off 31st Street? It appears that these improvements, in their case, may slow their access to the south for fires, roadwork, etc. Maybe they should move the facility closer to the center of their service area, e.g., on N 1100 Road? And get the city to take over any remainder of the township that's up to the northwest of town?

Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 8 months ago

I haven't talked to them, but it is an interesting thought. Thanks, Chad

RareBird 1 year, 8 months ago

Here is a link to the KDOT fact sheet which includes a map large enough to see some detail. Includes locations for the rec path, noise walls, details of roads to be removed, etc. FYI - it is a large pdf.

http://www.ksdot.org/tworks/ProjDocuments/K-10_SLT_Factsheet_K_8392-04_10-18-2012.pdf

George_Braziller 1 year, 8 months ago

Thank you. I was about to go blind trying to look at the tiny map attached to the article.

Dan Klamet 1 year, 8 months ago

True old timers really know (i.e. my dad, who worked there) that it was King Radio before Allied Signal before Honeywell, before GrandStand, before Hiper.

David Klamet 1 year, 8 months ago

Who are you calling an old timer??? :-)

Chad Lawhorn 1 year, 8 months ago

There is a number out there in terms of how much the state has spent on the lawsuits, and there probably could be an estimate made on how much construction costs have increased due to inflation, but I don't have those numbers at my fingertips. But I'll dig them up at som point. Thanks, Chad

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

Increased costs due to inflation are really irrelevant, given that everything else has increased at a more or less comparable rate over time.

Of course, what's not irrelevant is that the taxes that will pay for this road are not being shifted rather dramatically onto the the working and middle classes, while the wealthy will be getting nearly a free pass.

Costs due to litigation are also irrelevant, since everyone has the right to access to the courts to protect their rights, even if the courts choose to ignore those rights.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

Courts in this country don't rule on the basis of right or wrong. They rule based on whatever (often arcane) legal arguments that appeal to them the most.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

I think the city and county should take your house and business. We can put it to a vote.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 8 months ago

Sure, put it to vote. Is there some extra space in Mom's basement for a roommate?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

"Had we not had 20 years of delay, we wouldn't have had 20 years worth of inflation."

And it would have been paid for out of an equivalently smaller tax base-- it's a wash to anyone who cares to actually think about it.

And the court expenses are only unnecessary to those who have utter disrespect for Haskell and its property.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 8 months ago

So you agree that Haskell should have its property returned to them?

tomatogrower 1 year, 8 months ago

I know it's enough for them to have just built a couple of bridges over the Wakarusa and taken the road south of the river. Too bad they are so stubborn.

boltzmann 1 year, 8 months ago

Are there any plans to connect the Burrough's Creek trail to the SLT shared use path? That would be nice.

average 1 year, 8 months ago

Not directly. It would have been much easier to connect both the Burroughs/Haskell rail-trail and the Naismith trail to the SLT trail if it were on the north side of the SLT. But that interferes with the fast food and truck-stop development land on the north side of the new '32nd'.

KDOT has budgeted for a shared-use path on the bridge of "New Haskell" over the new K-10. It would be up to the city to find funds to bridge the gap between the end of the Haskell rail-trail to the KDOT stub (and federal grants specifically for pedestrian improvements have been eliminated). Likewise, it would be a city matter to connect the end of the Naismith Valley trail to either the 'new Louisiana', or the trail underpass KDOT is providing in the location of the 'old Louisiana'.

Also on the pedestrian front, KDOT is not rebuilding the "bridge to nowhere" over Iowa. This means two things. Connecting from the current trail end at the movie theater to the new trail will be at-grade (34th street traffic light). And there will not be a sidewalk from Iowa north of the SLT to any new development south of the SLT (the bridge was not built with that in mind in the 1990s).

Steve Jacob 1 year, 8 months ago

Still say the the SLT being built is 50/50, that money might be taken away if Brownback does not get the expiring sales tax extended. Kansas is in real trouble without that money.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

Local taxpayers may well be forced to pay out more local tax dollars on this deal aka new tax increase. Grab your wallets.

optimist 1 year, 8 months ago

Menards wants to be south of town because 6th and K-10 is too close to their Topeka store and will draw from some of the same customers. If the city presses the issue it is a safe bet they will abandon their plan before they blink.

frankfussman 1 year, 8 months ago

Chad: I'm surprised you didn't reference this news item.

From the University Daily Kansan, March 27, 2013. STUDENT SENATE TASK FORCE FIGHTS TO PRESERVE WAKARUSA WETLANDS http://kansan.com/news/2013/03/27/student-senate-task-force-fights-to-preserve-wakarusa-wetlands/ It's not over till the fat lady sings, and she's not singing.

royalpain 1 year, 8 months ago

No offense, but the KU Student Senate lacks the power needed to halt construction. Follow me here – KU is funded by the State of Kansas, which is run by Brownback. KDOT is funded by the same state and governor. KU will not donate land to halt construction of a KDOT project. That, for lack of a better term, would be a financial suicide. Time is running out and I think this project will move forward. The first few days may be interesting, but this highway will get built.

Bob-RJ Burkhart 1 year, 8 months ago

This current reality assessment discounts or ignores the Kansas Supreme Court "Golden Case Ruling" that resulted in OPKS footing bill for over US $1 Million for Sprint Campus pollution prevention errors. APWA Professional Standards were subsequently revised to require attention to slope and soil type during "disturbed earth" construction projects.

Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 8 months ago

Chad, you are doing some tremendous reporting AND research before you write, which is very excellent. I also agree that you are one of the best reporters at the Journal- World!

Bob-RJ Burkhart 1 year, 8 months ago

After recently reviewing public records archived by the City of Lawrence at the Lawrence Public Library, I wasn't able to find any conclusive evidence of effective compliance with the Emergency Preparedness Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

My follow-up inquiries via our Metropolitan Planning Office were redirected as follows:

Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 11:42 AM To: David Guntert Subject: Kansas Open Records Request Link

David - Good morning. Per our phone conversation, here is the link for Kansas Open Records Request information: http://www.ksdot.org/offchiefcoun/openrecords.asp Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you!

Kimberly K. Qualls NE Kansas Public Affairs Manager Kansas Dept. of Transportation 121 SW 21st Street Topeka, KS 66612 P: (785) 296-3881 C: (785) 640-9340 kqualls@ksdot.org www.ksdot.org www.kandrive.org

bearded_gnome 1 year, 8 months ago

but will the salamander wranglers come out again?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

Property owners along the way will make a killing on land deals. Nearly anyone connected to the real estate industry bought property along the way after this new route was blessed by KDOT so I'm told.

A family farmer might 1500- 2500 $$$$ per acre. Investors on the other hand stand to get a lot of dough.

-- 1. $15,000 per acre -- 2. $16,000 per acre -- 3. $9,750 per acre -- 4. $22,500 per acre -- 5. $26,136 per acre -- 6. $40,107 per acre -- 7. $16,439 per acre -- 8. $59,000 per acre -- 9. $76,000 per acre -- 10. $75,796 per acre -- 11. $211,000 per acre

Additionally there are other things noted such as "other damages" that bring some rather extraordinary amounts of money. Some folks walked away with hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to millions of tax dollars.

The "negotiator" was being paid $90.00 per hour.

Next time the powers that be start talking roadway or any new development near the city taxpayers should revolt and say "What the hell is going on?"

Any family farmer should pay attention to this and not get duped by local developers.

juma 1 year, 8 months ago

All Menards has to do is get little Tommy Fritzel to say he is involved to 'help' the community. The commissioners will instantly approve and throw in a few $$$million in tax credits.

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