Archive for Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Opponents vow to continue battling project

February 14, 2007

One Leavenworth County resident is ready for "civil war" to stop a proposed highway interchange at the intersection of Leavenworth County Road 1 and the Kansas Turnpike.

It may take civil war and a lot more, though, to get in the way of the nearly $13 million project to improve County Road 1 from U.S. Highway 24-40 to Kansas Highway 32 to support the increased traffic load.

The outrage felt by some residents of southern Leavenworth County drew about 80 people Sunday afternoon to the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds in Tonganoxie to rally opposition to the project.

Residents at the Sunday meeting contend the true price of the project will end up being much higher than the $12.96 million estimated by engineers. They say the county will end up footing the bill for any overruns, plus whatever the federal government provides, if it provides anything.

Opponents to the plan generally fall into two camps: Those who view the construction of the interchange as a waste of money and those who view the interchange as a fundamental change in the culture of Leavenworth County. Julie Downes falls more in the first category, while Jan Bernhardt and Maryam Hjersted fall decidedly in the second.

Bernhardt stands to lose a portion of her 320 acres to the project if it is approved.

"My concern is the access road to the toll booth will go right by my house," Bernhardt said. "Even beyond that, all the development that will follow this interchange is scary. We have a right to have a voice in this process, and we haven't had a voice."

Bernhardt said she's upset the project hasn't been handled in a more forthright manner.

Downes, who owns property along County Road 1 south of the turnpike, said it's her belief voters didn't know what they were approving when they passed the sales tax. At least one person who attended the meeting said he'd voted for the increase but wouldn't have if he'd known about the project.

Hjersted is insistent that this project would destroy the community that has been created in Leavenworth County.

"It's like the difference between living on Walden Pond and living near a strip mall," she said.

Lawrence attorney Price Banks was also on hand to offer advice to all those who were at the gathering Sunday. He said it still was possible for upset residents to change or force cancellation of the project.

"Their most favored action is going to be political, at this point," Banks said. "I think the good news here is they don't know where the funding is coming from."

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