Archive for Thursday, August 26, 2004

KDOT preparing highway plans

August 26, 2004

As part of a two-phase study commissioned to analyze the future use of the Kansas Highway 7 corridor, state transportation officials have had discussions with 11 different municipalities concerning their needs along the highway. Among the feedback from cities, there has been but one common trend.

"We really weren't looking for a consensus yet, but if there was one, most everyone agreed that we need to develop a plan quickly and yes, K-7 is a very important corridor," said Ron Kaufman, Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman.

In cooperation with architects and engineers from the Overland Park design firm, HNTB Corp., transportation officials are currently working to complete the first phase of the K-7 study, which will culminate with a preliminary recommendation as to what type of highway facility K-7 should be.

The two uses under consideration for the corridor are maintaining K-7 as a divided, multi-lane highway or tailoring K-7 as a high-speed, urban arterial roadway that provides more frequent access, transportation officials said. Kaufman said the study's recommendation would most likely be unveiled during a public meeting in late November or early December.

The study divides K-7 into three sections between Leavenworth County and the Johnson/Miami counties line. Those sections are:

  • 215TH Street to Kansas Highway 10.
  • 75th Street to U.S. Highway 24/40.
  • 24/40 to East Mary Street in Lansing.

Kaufman said there is no indication yet as to what the K-7 analysis will reveal at the public meeting later this year.

A previous study of the highway, which took into account existing traffic figures and projected traffic counts 20 years down the road, hinted strongly that K-7 should develop as a freeway in the future.

It's the project's second phase -- a portion of the study that will begin next year and attempt to merge the facility type with the interests of individual cities -- that is expected to draw the most interest from municipalities, Kaufman said.

"That's probably where most people will take an interest in it," he said.

No matter the outcome of the study, it's unclear how or when K-7 might be improved, Kaufman said.

While the study is budgeted, the transportation department has no funds allocated toward construction or renovations along the highway.

"This is only a study," Kaufman said. "It's not going to result in any specific project."

The department of transportation began re-evaluating the highway since 2003 when it became apparent that residential and commercial developers were taking interest in property along the roadway.

Transportation officials began meeting with municipalities to develop a strategy that would compliment that would compliment development while not hindering high-speed traffic.

While the highway binds several communities, the needs of individual cities couldn't be more dissimilar.

Smaller cities along the highway such as Basehor and Bonner Springs disagreed with the original study's findings and contend turning K-7 into a freeway only would be disastrous for economic development.

By contrast, cities like Shawnee and Lansing need a highway, which compliments their existing and future developments while moving traffic quickly.

Without a corridor plan, the department of transportation would be forced to make decisions on ad hoc basis, which cities may not find advantageous to development, transportation officials said.

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