Archive for Thursday, October 19, 2006

24-40 corridor study focuses on economic development

October 19, 2006

Charlie Krout has worked in Tonganoxie the last few years. As owner of the Tonganoxie Sonic Drive-In restaurant, he's become part of the community.

But Krout lives in Olathe and commutes to work.

"I would hate to see Tonganoxie become an Olathe," Krout said. "Because, honestly, some things weren't planned out there. I hate to say that about the place I live, but I love it here."

Planning was the main topic at Thursday's U.S. 24-40 corridor study public meeting, which Krout attended.

About 30 area residents attended the meeting in Tonganoxie, which started with discussions with a citizen advisory community. The committee, of which Kraut is a member, consists of local residents, business people and bankers.

Officials from Leavenworth County, Tonganoxie and Basehor, along with officials from the Mid-America Regional Council and the Kansas Department of Transportation are working together as the study's steering committee. The study, which examines U.S. 24-40 from Kansas Highway 7 to County Road 1, also includes a mile of land on both sides of the road.

When complete, the study is expected to provide local governments with recommendations on how to preserve high-speed travel on U.S. 24-40 without hindering development during the next 30 years.

Steering committee members selected the advisory committee members, who met for the first time Thursday.

Bucher, Willis and Ratliff, a Kansas City planning firm, has been organizing data for the study. The company moderated the meeting.

Which came first?

Steve Hertzog, who owns Linwood Road Studio, a photography and design company, asked Charlie Schwinger of BWR what initiated talk for a corridor study.

"What came first, your studies or the entrance to the freeway?" Hertzog asked, referring to plans for a turnpike interchange south of Tonganoxie on County Road 1.

Schwinger said he thought "they've both moved along independently."

But Jim Washington, a former Basehor planning commissioner, disagreed.

"If that County Road 1 doesn't go, that volume on 24-40 over the next foreseeable period of time is going to be significantly lower than with the interchange there," Washington said. "When that goes in, that's going to increase traffic volume from north and east."

Larry Meadows, president emeritus of Meadows Construction, said when planning the future of U.S. 24-40, economic development should be at the forefront.

"We don't want to forget 24-40 was originally updated from a two-lane to a four-lane for economic development," Meadows said of the road. "That's why KDOT spent $24 million for 24-40 for economic development. Whatever we do we don't want to harm economic development."

Group discussion

During the evening's public meeting session, which many advisory members also attended, residents were split up into groups of two to discuss what topics were important regarding 24-40.

Bill Altman, Community National Bank president, said he liked the rural landscape along the corridor.

"I enjoy the 10 minutes of no-stress driving," Altman said, noting he always checks to see how Stranger Creek is running.

Scott Minchie of BWR called the drive "a mental coffee break" and then asked Altman whether agricultural preservation should be considered.

"Zoning will ultimately determine that," Altman said. "I don't own the land. Thirty years is a long time. If I couldn't farm out of it, I would probably develop it."

Local traffic also important

Kerry Holton, who is a local dairy farmer, said planning shouldn't focus only on moving traffic through the area.

He said local residents, farmers included, should be able to travel in a timely manner also, even it's within the corridor. Holton mentioned trying to pull onto 24-40 during busy times of the day with farm equipment, which he said can be long adventure.

"I'm not here to champion for agriculture or anything like that but so local people can get to live their lives and get from point A to point B and not sit there forever to make a turn," Holton said.

BWR officials held another group activity in which the public split into three groups: land use and development, corridor identity and image and access management and traffic.

For each topic, group members were asked to pick the top five issues for the corridor.

All of the leading issues will be further examined at the next public meeting, 6 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Basehor-Linwood High School library.

top issues

People attending last week's corridor study meeting broke into three groups and selected the top issues facing the area. Here are some of those top issues:

Land use and development

  • Local streets intersecting correctly with the highway -- serving local development while preserving highway capacity.
  • Connecting services in cities to rural areas.

Access management and traffic

  • Road improvements, such as widening from two lanes to four lanes where needed. The southern portion of the corridor, from K-16 in Tonganoxie south on U.S. 24-40, is the only two-lane stretch of the highway.
  • Limit traffic signals, although safety is key.

Corridor identity and image group

  • Rural and open space preservation topped the list.
  • Development standards.
  • Frontage roads and overpasses.
  • Lighting for safety and beauty.

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