Archive for Thursday, November 6, 2003

KDOT prepares for decision on access road

November 6, 2003

Basehor city officials and interested developers can expect to learn within the next few weeks whether the Kansas Department of Transportation will reopen Falcon Lakes Parkway.

During a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 4 concerning the future of the Kansas Highway 7 corridor, Deb Miller, Kansas Department of Transportation secretary, told a crowd of representatives that a decision concerning the roadway is looming.

"There is a very pressing decision that has to be made," Miller said.

"We're going to have to do something quickly there," she added, "and we will do that very quickly."

Falcon Lakes Parkway is a $1.4 million access road ordered barricaded two years ago by the department of transportation. Transportation officials granted developers of the Falcon Lakes residential area and golf course permission to build the road; after the road's completion, the department ordered it closed, citing safety concerns.

The road's closure has hampered development at Falcon Lakes, a subdivision planned to include 550 single-family homes, Basehor city codes administrator Mike Hooper said.

"The lack of access has definitely hurt them," he said, noting that home sales at Falcon Lakes have decreased since the access road closed.

The road's closure could further deter Basehor's economic development if it is not reopened. Tom Zarda, a Shawnee developer, said he would not develop his 80 acres of ground, located just east of Falcon Lakes, without access to the roadway. (See related story, Page 8A.)

The department of transportation's decision at Falcon Lakes Parkway could serve as a precursor for things to come along the highway. A decision there could signal the department of transportation's concept for the future: should the highway be improved to accommodate a free flow of traffic or commercial and economic development?

"We are beset by people wanting to develop," Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said. "We need to know what KDOT will do. I think it's going to be detrimental from a development standpoint until people know what's going to happen. KDOT needs to tell us what's going to happen."

Basehor city officials have continuously lobbied transportation officials for access to K-7, an argument that extended to the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Members of the Basehor City Council participated in a work group during the meeting, which concentrated on the section of K-7 between Interstate 70 and Lansing.

The comments of Basehor city officials routinely echoed the city's need for access to the highway. Suggestions were made of placing signalized intersections every mile to mile-and-a-half between Fairmount and Leavenworth roads.

The city's wishes fell in sharp contrast with the cities of Lansing and Leavenworth, which want the highway to remain a high-speed roadway. Residents of those cities need the fast moving highway to access metropolitan Kansas City and Johnson County, officials from Lansing and Leavenworth contend.

Officials from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, including mayor Carol Marinovich, also participated in the work group. Wyandotte County is attempting to balance the economic development of the highway just as other cities.

Last week, Basehor City Council members and Wyandotte County engineer Fred Backus met to discuss aligning highway plans. More talks are to commence in the future, both sides said.

If only one thing was learned from the meeting, it may be that there's a mixed bag of options on the table for the future of K-7. To this point at least, no one can be certain which option will be pursued.

"There's got to be some trade-off," Scherer said. "We have to reach a consensus because we can't do nothing."

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