KDOT narrowing down options for South Lawrence Trafficway expansion, will study 4- and 6-lane freeway designs
photo by: Nick Krug
The Kansas Department of Transportation is narrowing down its study of potential options for the expansion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
KDOT began its three-year environmental impact study on the lane expansion project in September, and the project team presented six initial options for the project to the Lawrence City Commission last month. KDOT engineer Aaron Frits told the Journal-World last week that the team has now narrowed those options down to three.
Based on the team’s research and feedback received from the public at two recent meetings, Frits said the team will move forward with the freeway and tolled freeway options. He said the “no action” option would also still be evaluated, because doing so is required by federal law and provides a baseline for comparison.
Frits said now that the other options, which included an expressway or other relatively minor improvements, have been eliminated, the team could start looking at details such as the exact course of the trafficway and where the ramps will be.
“We’re going to start looking at what that actually looks like,” Frits said. “What a four- or six-lane freeway looks like, how are we going to provide access to Farmer’s Turnpike, where should an interchange be located between Clinton Parkway and U.S. 59.”
The portion of the South Lawrence Trafficway east of Iowa Street was finished 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 freeway or tolled freeway option 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.
Frits told city commissioners last month that KDOT would not pursue a tolled freeway unless local governments — the City of Lawrence, Douglas County and the City of Lecompton — requested it. He reiterated to the Journal-World last week that that was still the plan. He said recent state legislation does not allow new tolls unless municipalities request them, but that the team was evaluating a tolled freeway so local governments can make an informed decision.
“Really, it is to look at the impacts from tolling so that people have all the information about what it would mean if you choose to do so,” Frits said. “So that all municipalities are informed about what those impacts are.”
The city has long advocated that the state fund the expansion of the western leg of the trafficway, and the commission is officially against using tolls as a means to fund the expansion. Other funding options for the project include using fuel, sales and property taxes, according to information KDOT previously provided the commission.
In addition to presenting the six options to local governing bodies, KDOT recently held two public meetings to gather feedback. Frits said that the project team asked attendees which of the options best met the project’s four identified needs: reducing congestion, enhancing safety, promoting a multimodal transportation system and supporting local and regional growth. He said attendees generally agreed that a freeway best met those needs and that trafficway access, safety and potential tolls had been some of the larger concerns.
Frits said feedback about the six options can still be provided via the project’s website, slt-ks.org, and that additional public meetings will be held as the study continues.