Local Resident Richard Heckler had a Letter to the Editor in today’s J-W about the South Lawrence Trafficway. He also posted it to Larryville. Some of his opening paragraphs were cut, focusing on the issue of a Traffic Light that is along the existing stretch. A recent fatality accident and the proximity to the local youth soccer field has may people concerned, including the letter writer.
Here’s my response, with Mr. Hecklers words space in in
One more example of bad planning with Dean Carlson at the helm not to mention a strong influence of two Douglas County comissioners at the time and probaly others behind the scene.
The two lane speedway was built as a means to force the the SLT through the wetlands before a court decision was rendered thinking no one would say NO once the project was underway. The court said no not through the wetlands. Bad planning
While the existing leg of the SLT was constructed with the assumption that the eastern leg would be built, it was not built with any particular alignment in mind. Also, the courts did not say that we could not build through the wetlands. That’s not their perogative. The courts did say that the Federal Highway Administration could not “pull out” of the EIS process because parties could not decide on a alignment. That ruling led to a rare “no-build” decision and, ultimitely, to the all-new EIS process and the current alignment selection.
When asked why not build a four lane instead of two considering the speed at which drivers would likely travel the reply was "We'll add on once traffic counts warrants two more lanes". My best guess it would have cost less a few years ago than whenever if it ever gets done. Now there is no money and people travel as if it is a four lane. Bad planning.
The bulk of the costs for expanding a roadway appear to be Right of way acquisition. In the process of building the first two lanes, KDOT acquired the Right of Way for the second carridgeway. While it certainally would be somewhat more expensive to build the second carridgeway in the future over building both carridgeways at the same time, some would see it as a waste, and the maintance costs for the second carridgeway would probably make it a wash cost-wise anyway.
I say pick an area east of Lawrence which will connect K-10 and I-70 to the north thus bringing all of this together under a toll road plan.
Whether or not anything else is built there are two intersections that are in desperate need of attention. They are at the soccer field and the bridge to nowhere.
Why was a a traffic light placed at K-10 and the soccer fields in the first place? Perhaps KDOT knew then this intersection was not safe. Certainly no safe passage for pedestrians crossing the two lane speedway to a popular area was provided.
Why did they not design a safe intersection considering the popular area and its 'proximity to a neighborhood? They ran out of money.
Is that any reason to leave a project with unsafe intersections? Probaly not.
Why are they leaving the bridge to nowhere and the soccer field intersections,both unsafe designs, as they are? Were the decisions to leave these intersections with unsafe designs irresponsible? I think so. Now the new administration is left hopefully appropriating funds to correct the situation in the near future.
In retrospect instead of building bridges to nowhere should we be sure we have our priorities straight thus not allowing unsafely designed intersections when working with limited funds?
Soccer field intersection has been brought to the attention of KDOT officials during discussions in the SLT hearings if my memory serves me well more than once. A pedestrian bridge for cyclists,joggers,walkers and children at this intersection was suggested due to the rather precarious situation of this intersection.
In the interest of safety KDOT needs to rectify this situation very soon.
KDOT (as would just about any transportation agency) certainly balked about the idea of placing a traffic light on a high speed roadway, but also determined (quite correctly) that there was enough crossing traffic to justify it. While the design of this intersection is not as safe as a grade-separated interchange, every reasonable effort to protect the safety of cross traffic and pedestrians has been made.
The problems that have occurred at this and other at-grad intersections on major highways in Kansas have not fallen on deaf ears in Topeka. Such problems are part of the initiative for making US 59 a full freeway, for example.
Also KDOT should reconsider the I-70 connectors east of Lawrence as a means of putting the SLT matter behind us, perhaps more economical. Eastern Hills Business Park and all other traffic would benefit greatly.
As for the idea of building an eastern bypass over the proposed eastern SLT leg: The Eastern Bypass has been proposed for just as long, if not longer, than the southern bypass/SLT project. That proposal, for whatever reason, has gone nowhere in Topeka. Even if it now receives a more serious look, it would require the same environmental scrutiny given to the SLT, would likely face opposition from river preservationists, would take longer to complete, and would likely not be any more economical.