Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Meeting to focus on K-7 interchange

ocal cities studying issues relating to Kansas Highway 7

June 11, 2003

Questions abound for local cities and future developments with an interest in the Kansas Highway 7 corridor.

Last week, representatives of local cities and municipalities -- Basehor, Bonner Springs, Lansing, Leavenworth County and Unified Government of Wyandotte County -- met with officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation to discuss K-7, most notably the stretch of highway between Lansing and the Johnson/Miami counties line.

The debate seems to be whether K-7 should be designed for future improvements and construction as a freeway with no traffic lights and limited access or an expressway with intersections at specified points.

Building the freeway would entail widening the right of way and cost approximately $260 million; the expressway would make K-7 six lanes and cost roughly $240 million. KDOT officials said the estimates are ballpark figures only and subject to change.

Thus far, state transportation officials have not given an indication either way on their future plans for the highway.

"That's really where it's still at," said Joe Blubaugh, KDOT public involvement officer. "It hasn't gone any further than that."

A study conducted in 2000 indicated K-7 would need upgrades due to an increase in traffic the highway is receiving.

The study, broken down into segments, indicated 23,200 cars travel K-7 from Kansas Highway 32 to Kansas Avenue per day. It projects 36,300 vehicles traveling the highway per day by the year 2023.

From Kansas Avenue to State Avenue, the study projects 19,400 cars using the road per day and 46,100 by 2023.

The study was conducted before a boom in development at the Village West district, where the Kansas Speedway and Cabela's is housed and which draws large volumes of traffic, Blubaugh said.

"Not that the study isn't valid but if we were to guess, (those numbers) would be on the lower side," he said.

Both Bonner Springs and Basehor city officials have expressed concern for the future of K-7 and said they are in the process of studying the issue further.

Bonner Springs city manager John Helin said a task force is being put together to study K-7 "needs and issues," beginning at the State Avenue/K-7 interchange and moving south to the city.

"We feel we need to take a comprehensive look at that, and that's what we're doing," Helin said.

KDOT is scheduled to replace the K-7/State Avenue interchange and will host an open house Tuesday, June 17 at its headquarters, 650 N. K-7 Highway in Bonner Springs, to present its concept.

The open house will run from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Blubaugh said the project will cost approximately $30.5 million. The project will be let for construction in early 2006; construction will begin in the spring of that year and conclude in 2007, Blubaugh said.

In Basehor, issues along the highway are more urgent.

KDOT's traffic study indicated 19,400 vehicles per day travel K-7 between State Avenue and the northern boundaries of the city of Lansing. By the year 2023, that number could inflate to 39,500 vehicles per day.

One of the city's prime concerns is that a major Basehor residential development on K-7, Falcon Lakes, a 550-home residential area and golf course, is receiving little or no exposure from the highway.

In 1998, KDOT gave Falcon Lakes developers permission to build an access road from K-7 into the development. Since then, correspondence from KDOT to the developer didn't change that approval.

However, last year, after the road -- Falcon Lakes Drive -- had been built at a cost of $1.4 million, KDOT switched gears and mandated the access road be barricaded.

The road's closure has put a strain on home sales at Falcon Lakes, developers said.

Currently, there are only two points of access into the development -- Hollingsworth and Donahoo roads -- neither of which are as attractive as Falcon Lakes drive.

Last week, Basehor city officials and Falcon Lakes representatives met with KDOT's chief legal counsel to discuss the problem.

"KDOT has given no indication of what they're looking at doing there," said Mike Hooper, Basehor city codes administrator.

Leavenworth Area Development director Bill Schulte, who's been involved in the K-7 discussions, said KDOT's improvement of the highway is made more difficult by the predicament faced by Falcon Lakes.

"Right now, I'd say the big dilemma is how to access Falcon Lakes with an entrance," Schulte said.

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