Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

Rift forms over K-7

April 21, 2005

The future of Kansas Highway 7 is shaping up as a battle between interests at the ends and in the middle of the road that stretches from Lansing to Olathe.

The cities of Lansing, Leavenworth, Olathe and Spring Hill, along with Leavenworth and Johnson counties, want to see the road as a six-lane freeway. They've got the backing of HNTB Corp., an Overland Park-based consultant that is studying the road at the behest of the Kansas Department of Transportation. HNTB issued a preliminary report in December recommending K-7 ultimately become six-lane freeway.

Not so fast, say the mayors of Kansas City, Kan., Bonner Springs and Basehor - cities in the middle of K-7.

Late last month, the mayors signed a letter of opposition to HNTB's recommendation. The letter was addressed to Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller and copies were forwarded to State Sen. Mark Gilstrap, State Rep. Ray Cox, a Kansas Department of Transportation Engineer and the MidAmerica Regional Council Transportation Planning Committee.

"This preliminary recommendation came without a thorough discussion or review of the impact of the recommendation on the communities through which K-7 passes and who would be most directly affected by converting it to a freeway," the letter reads.

"As the senior elected representatives of the communities that will be directly affected by decisions about the K-7 Highway Corridor, we must express our strong opposition to this recommendation to convert K-7 to a freeway."

Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard said he was surprised at the turnaround in stance by officials with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/ Kansas City, Kan., which earlier had indicated support for the freeway proposal.

"I don't know why Wyandotte County changed its mind, but we're totally in favor of having that be a freeway," Bernard said.

Lansing's mayor said he didn't know what the ramifications of the Unified Government's newfound stance would be.

"I don't know unless they think that they can influence it being that Kansas City, Kansas, or Wyandotte County is the biggest entity along the corridor and they think can influence it that way," Bernard said. "They haven't changed our opinion, they haven't changed Leavenworth's, they haven't changed Leavenworth County's."

Bernard said the reason Lansing, Leavenworth and Leavenworth County support the freeway option is simple: the time it takes to get along K-7.

"The big issue we have is how long it takes you to get to I-70 and everywhere else," he said. "If you have a million stop signs, it's going to take forever."

For the middle cities, the issue isn't smooth traffic flow; it's economics. They fear few travelers would bother to get off a freeway to patronize existing and future merchants along the highway in their cities.

"The report does not take into consideration the negative effect a freeway would have on the economic welfare and development of those parts of our communities through which the highway traverses," the letter says.

- Basehor Sentinel reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report

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