Archive for Thursday, February 14, 2008

City, KDOT push toward pact on 155th

February 14, 2008

The Kansas Department of Transportation and Basehor City Council members have indicated a willingness to work together in moving ahead with a U.S. Highway 24-40 corridor master plan, despite disagreements on the future of a traffic signal at 155th Street.

During a City Council work session Monday, Thomas Dow, a state transportation planner with KDOT's corridor management bureau, relayed information from a meeting last week with state transportation engineer Jerry Younger, KDOT's second-in-command.

At that meeting, the issue of removing a signal light at 155th Street and U.S. 24-40 - which was included in a preliminary master plan - was discussed, as were two resolutions the council approved in that regard.

The latest resolution, passed Jan. 10, requested the light at 155th remain, in addition to full access points at 142nd, 150th, 158th, 166th, and 178th streets.

KDOT representatives have held firm, though, on their position: With 65 mph speed limits on U.S. 24-40, a minimum of one-mile spacing for signals is optimal for public safety.

"As the state highway agency, we're very concerned about insuring the safety of the operations of our highways," Dow told council members Monday.

He added, however, "Sometimes design exceptions have to be achieved or met, and we certainly realize that. : While one-mile spacing may be the best technical thing we can do, we recognize that you have local political concerns, and we want to make sure our agencies are talking together."

Dow said KDOT's preference would be to have mile spacing established and work with the city to remove 155th Street eventually when the proper infrastructure - including reverse frontage roads along U.S. 24-40 - is in place or when safety becomes a problem.

In the preliminary corridor master plan, 155th Street was shown to be right-in, right-out access with left-turn access off the highway in the future.

Dow asked Council members if they were at all willing to negotiate removing the signal at 155th Street at some point.

Council President Terry Thomas said it depended on the future economic benefit of removing a signal there, but he added, "If KDOT says we're not getting funds, then obviously we'll have to look at something else."

Basehor Mayor Chris Garcia said 155th Street is Basehor's main thoroughfare and significant investments have been made at its intersection with U.S. 24-40.

"I don't see any need to take (the signal) out ever. I really don't," Garica said.

Council member Terry Hill added, "We feel very strongly about protecting our business interests, our traffic, our access to the schools, our access to the fire station. The residents that live in Basehor - we feel very strongly about protecting that - but, if an ultimatum is given to us that we won't get any funding : we would compromise."

One Council member, Jim Washington, said it's impossible to predict what the future will hold.

"None of us know what the traffic patterns are going to be eight to 15 years out at this point," he said, noting that decisions would have to be "performance driven."

Dow reiterated that all four of the council members present (Iris Dysart was absent) voiced a need to retain a signalized light at 155th Street for now but said he was bolstered by the fact that three expressed willingness to compromise.

"What I think is most important to KDOT at this point is that the city of Basehor adopt the plan, and that you sign the agreement with us, so that we can move forward," he said.

Dow explained the 24-40 corridor master plan was "95 percent or more" done and the signal at 155th Street was the one remaining issue needing to be resolved.

Ed McIntosh, a developer whose plans for a 44,000-square-foot grocery store in the Wolf Creek Junction, near 155th Street and U.S. 24-40, have been on hold for almost two years, suggested the council approve the corridor management plan allowing for the state and city to review the intersection every certain number of years until the issue is resolved.

Dow added the caveat that the topic would need to also be revisited if safety became an issue.

He said KDOT officials would draft an agreement, subject to council review with the city attorney, as soon as possible.

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