Archive for Thursday, February 24, 2005

State, local representatives to study highway

24/40 analysis to resemble current K-7 study

February 24, 2005

Gridlock.

That's the potential scenario for a stretch of U.S. Highway 24/40 in the future if let to its own fate without proper planning, said Dean Oroke, Leavenworth County Commission third district representative.

"If we did nothing, when those developments were built out it would add 20 minutes of travel time between Basehor and Tonganoxie," Oroke said. "That may be 20 or 30 years down the line, but we've got to do something now to eliminate that problem in the future."

Because of existing residential, commercial and industrial developments building along the highway, and with its potential for more construction in the future, local and state officials are eyeing highway 24/40 with concern.

To avoid traffic pitfalls such as the one Oroke presented, the Kansas Department of Transportation along with representatives from the cities of Basehor, Bonner Springs, Tonganoxie and the Mid America Regional Council are planning to conduct a comprehensive study of the highway.

Between Basehor and Tonganoxie, there are currently seven developments in progress along the highway. The developments range in uses from entirely residential to commercial and light industrial only.

"That's a lot of development," said John Zoellner, Leavenworth County planning and zoning director. "I don't know if there's a need for anybody to do more than that right now. I know they'll probably try."

Joe Blubaugh, department of transportation spokesman, said the study's aim would be to set a long-term goal for the highway and secure memos of understanding for the future. The study would closely resemble a current analysis of Kansas Highway 7 being conducted jointly between state and local officials, Blubaugh said.

As of yet, there is no timetable for when the study will begin.

It's the department of transportation's desire to have one traffic signal per mile stretch of highway and right turn in, right turn out access points every half mile.

"One mile signal spacing is what we'd like to see and what we'll enforce," Blubaugh said. However, the transportation department, knowing there are current traffic situations along highway 24/40 that don't fit its criteria, won't pull any existing access points, the spokesman said.

One area that doesn't fit the transportation department's criteria lies at 155th and 158th Streets and 24/40. A traffic signal exists at 155th Street and 24/40 and Basehor city officials have contended that another light may soon be necessary at 158th Street. The two signals would be less than one mile apart.

Oroke said he believes transportation officials would approve a traffic signal at the intersection.

"I think KDOT would agree that will probably be a good place for the next stop light," said Oroke, citing development around the intersection and it's past history of traffic accidents.

Another intersection the county commissioner believes may be the site of a future traffic light is at County Road 25 and highway 24/40, near the Stone Creek residential development.

"Depending on how fast Tonganoxie grows, I would say the next would be County Road 25," he said. "Once Stone Creek is built out, that would seem to be a logical place for it."

The intersection at 166th Street and 24/40 is a candidate for a traffic signal once the development there, Honey Creek, gets further along in construction, Oroke said.

Both state and local officials agree that frontage roads, which some highway developments are building, is an answer to the possible traffic concerns of the future. The frontage roads won't hinder development, will circulate traffic easily and make the highway less congested, officials said.

Oroke said the upcoming highway study would be vital in developing 24/40 the correct way. By building a thorough plan now, officials can eliminate future traffic congestion and safety issues, he said.

"We need to start looking in that direction now," he said. "We need to look at the county roads, driveways and field entrances. The more you have, the more the odds are increased that there's going to be an accident.

"We need to get a plan in place now for the future rather than have to go back after it's been built out."

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