KDOT to present options for South Lawrence Trafficway improvements, including adding tolls

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World FIle Photo

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

City leaders will hear an update on the state’s efforts to widen or otherwise improve travel on the South Lawrence Trafficway, including the option of making the trafficway a toll road.

As part of the Lawrence City Commission’s meeting Tuesday, Kansas Department of Transportation representatives will provide commissioners an update on the potential lane expansion of the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway and other options for improving travel on the roadway.

KDOT began a three-year environmental impact study in September, and the update will include information about the project alternatives being evaluated, the criteria and methodology for the evaluations, and interim improvements for the trafficway, according to a memo to the commission from KDOT engineer Aaron Frits. The memo states that the study, which will be completed in 2021, will further review the concept alternatives, evaluate the entire corridor for impacts and identify ways to minimize or avoid impacts to sensitive environmental features.

The portion of the South Lawrence Trafficway east of Iowa Street was completed in November 2016, completing the final segment of the bypass project. The eastern section is a four-lane divided highway, but the road changes to a traditional two-lane highway west of Iowa Street. The trafficway’s western leg extends from Iowa Street to I-70. The Journal-World reported in December that since the eastern leg opened, traffic volumes on the long-completed western leg have doubled and accidents have soared.

The project team is currently reviewing six initial alternatives, including not adding lanes to the western leg of the trafficway, expanding the western leg to either four or six lanes, and turning the trafficway into a tolled highway to fund the lane expansion, according to the memo. Other funding options for the project include using fuel, sales and property taxes. The project team is reviewing how each of the alternatives would meet the project’s four identified needs, which are to reduce congestion, enhance safety, promote a multimodal transportation system and support local and regional growth.

Presentation materials provide details on each alternative and a summary of those alternatives is as follows:

· No Action: This alternative does not add lanes or expand capacity on the western leg of the trafficway. It would include improvements directly related to ongoing rehabilitation and maintenance and that are included in state and local transportation plans. Those include the reconfiguration of the Sixth Street and Kasold Drive interchanges, an extension on 31st Street, and safety improvements such as a queue warning system.


· Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management: This alternative calls for relatively low-cost, low-impact strategies to enhance mobility on the trafficway without adding new lanes or upgrading the facility to a freeway. Improvements could include coordinated signal timings, ramp metering, queue warning systems or minor intersection improvements.


· Multimodal: This alternative includes measures to improve transit routes and crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians. State and local transit could be enhanced by providing roadway improvements to allow for more efficient transit connections.


· Added Capacity Expressway: This alternative would build a median-divided expressway with four lanes. It would also include the reconstruction of the existing two lanes. Existing interchanges at West Sixth Street, Bob Billings Parkway, Clinton Parkway and Iowa Street would remain interchanges with ramp modifications to accommodate additional expressway travel lanes. At-grade intersections, such as the signalized intersection at 27th Street and the I-70 interchange ramp terminals, would remain in place, but would have various intersection improvements to enhance safety and mobility.


· Added Capacity Freeway: This alternative includes potential tolling and would build a median-divided, access-controlled freeway with either four or six lanes. Existing interchanges at West Sixth Street, Bob Billings Parkway, Clinton Parkway and Iowa Street would remain interchanges with ramp modifications to accommodate additional travel lanes. At-grade intersections, such as the signalized intersection at 27th Street, would be replaced with ramp access.


· Added Capacity Tolled Highway: This alternative is similar to the freeway concept but includes the ability to collect tolls through all-electronic tolling to fund construction of the roadway. Rather than toll plazas, overhead gantries would be constructed at various points to collect tolls.


The memo notes the briefing to the City Commission is an additional chance for public comments and feedback. The next steps of the process will be determining which of the alternatives to continue studying and will include a public open house. The public can provide comments and talk to the project team at that open house, which will be from 5 to 7 p.m. May 1 at Southwest Middle School, 2511 Inverness Drive.

The City Commission will convene at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., to meet in executive session and is scheduled to begin its regular meeting at 6 p.m.


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