Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

City prepares for highway

October 23, 2003

It's kind of like studying before a big test.

That's how best to view the work local cities are trying to complete before a meeting Nov. 4 with the Kansas Department of Transportation concerning the future of the Kansas Highway 7 corridor.

Municipalities from Olathe to Leavenworth will convene in a meeting that is more likely to resemble a summit. With varying opinions and desires for the highway, Basehor and Bonner Springs officials viewed it important to complete some groundwork beforehand.

Basehor city officials will meet with the Unified Government and developers along K-7 later this week. An eastern traffic lane of the highway falls under Wyandotte County jurisdiction.

Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said Wyandotte County wants an intersection every two miles along K-7, a view neither Basehor or Bonner Springs share.

"We are looking for at least every mile," Scherer said.

The city is also continuing to lobby for access to the highway, specifically at K-7 and Falcon Lakes Parkway.

"Falcon Lakes Parkway is a must for the city," Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said. "Everyone wins with access to Falcon Lakes Parkway."

Falcon Lakes Parkway is a $1.4 million access road, built and paid for by developers of the Falcon Lakes subdivision.

After receiving initial approval, the department of transportation ordered the road barricaded because of safety concerns.

The development and the city are losing revenue with the road's closure; just two access points, Hollingsworth and Donohoo roads, are available to those entering the development from the highway. Neither are as attractive or offer the same exposure Falcon Lakes Parkway does, city officials said.

If the road stays closed, the city could lose another development, the Zarda Center, an 80-acre area planned for commercial and retail uses. Shawnee developer Tom Zarda has indicated he will not develop his property without access to Falcon Lakes Parkway.

In Bonner Springs, officials have compiled information concerning the city's needs and wishes for the future of the Kansas Highway 7 corridor. The information was sent to Deb Miller, state transportation secretary.

The city began studying and documenting its highway needs in July and compiled that information with recommendations for the department of transportation to review, city manager John Helin said.

The recommendations include only Bonner Springs' portion of the highway, roughly U.S. Highway 24/40 south to 43rd Street.

Helin said the recommendations would allow the city to further develop property along K-7.

"We're concerned about the ability to commercially develop along K-7 and the access to do that," the city manager said.

Bonner Springs' primary concern is finding a plan for K-7 that allows the city's portion of the highway to develop, improves safety for motorists and provides for an even flow of traffic, Helin said.

Both cities are searching for access from the highway into future and current developments. The highway provides attractive exposure for businesses and stimulates economic growth.

Basehor and Bonner Springs officials view highway access as an important ingredient for long-term growth.

The needs of the cities fall in contrast with plans the department of transportation has considered for the corridor.

KDOT has discussed renovating the highway to accommodate for future traffic numbers by building interchanges and limiting access points to keep traffic flowing.

Transportation officials said no definitive plans have been made for the highway and that a mutually beneficial solution is possible.

Scherer said KDOT's plans for the highway, to date at least, have been less than desirable.

"Their plan just doesn't make sense," the mayor said. "Developers are ready to put in property now. We just don't see the wisdom of their plan."

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