Archive for Thursday, November 6, 2003

More planning necessary for highway

November 6, 2003

As much as there was that divided representatives attending a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 4 at the Kansas Department of Transportation Office in Bonner Springs, one thing bound them.

"In many ways, all your communities are tied together and (Kansas Highway 7) is the lifeblood," said Deb Miller, Kansas secretary of transportation.

"It clearly underscores the importance of this corridor," she added.

On Tuesday afternoon, representatives from cities up and down the corridor -- Basehor, Bonner Springs and Shawnee among them -- attended the meeting to consider future options of K-7.

To say the least, interests and opinions for the highway's future varied. By breaking into three groups, officials discussed, sometimes argued, highway issues such as speed limit, access points and mileage between intersections, in addition to countless other items.

However, representatives and transportation officials found common ground on one issue -- more thorough, detailed planning is necessary.

Results of individual questionnaires given to those attending the meeting indicated 90 percent thought K-7 needed a plan immediately.

Seventy-nine to 80 percent of the respondents indicated the corridor is important to economic development.

"We need to move quickly with a much more detailed plan," Miller said, adding that KDOT would initiate a more aggressive strategy for the corridor.

The department of transportation will pursue plans that "realize the maximum economic benefit from the corridor," the secretary said.

For cities along the highway, the difficulty presented by the highway stems from not knowing how to proceed with the planning and regulation of developments along the highway.

Without a concrete plan in place and with each city grabbing the attention of residential and commercial developers because of its attractive highway exposure, officials are left without answers.

"We need a plan or at least a direction to go in," Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said, summing up the feelings of many representatives.

But, cities aren't the only ones feeling the pinch as the department of transportation is left with a quandary of its own: how best to safely accommodate a boom in future traffic numbers and maintain economic development along K-7. This must be accomplished while taking into account the individual needs of cities along K-7.

A study of the K-7 corridor, completed in 2002, indicates the following:

  • Between 17,200 and 24,400 vehicles travel K-7 per day from Shawnee Mission Parkway to Interstate 70. By the year 2023, the study indicates those numbers will rise between 31,800 to 46,100 cars per day.
  • Between 19,400 and 24,400 vehicles travel the highway each day between I-70 and E. Mary Street in Lansing. Those numbers are projected to balloon between 39,500 and 46,100 by 2023.

Miller summed up the dilemma.

"At times this issue has been contentious and certainly a complex one," she said.

"At times, opinions do tend to be in conflict with each other."

The study did not make a recommendation for the highway's future, but information leaned toward gearing K-7 toward a freeway, a high-speed highway with no intersections.

Joe Brand, an engineer involved with the traffic study, listed three options for the future improvement of the highway. The first option, leaving the highway as is, was discounted by those in attendance.

Other options were renovating the highway to a four-lane freeway or a six-lane urban arterial road, with various access points. Either option would cost millions of dollars, money the department of transportation does not have budgeted now or in the future.

Under the department's Comprehensive Transportation Program, which budgets highway projects through 2009, no money is slated for K-7. The best case scenario for K-7 funds would be 2010, Miller said.

Miller said transportation officials would begin disseminating input from the meeting. She said the department of transportation would also review information from the previous traffic study and explore further options for K-7.

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