Archive for Thursday, August 5, 2010

County to reconsider; may ask for study of K-5 corridor

August 5, 2010

The ink was barely dry on a Leavenworth County Commission request to have the Mid-American Regional Council do a study of the Kansas Highway 7 corridor before one commissioner asked it be swapped for a study of improvements to Kansas Highway 5.

On July 29, commissioners voted, 3-0, to ask MARC do a land use/economic assessment study of the K-7 corridor in the county. On Monday, Commissioner J.C. Tellefson asked reconsideration of the decision be placed on Thursday’s agenda.

In doing so, Tellefson said he would rather have a study in the economic benefits of an upgraded K-5 than the proposed K-7 corridor study.

Even as the commission was debating the MARC request for the K-7 corridor study, Tellefson said he would talk with MARC officials about using available funding for a K-5 study.

It is the second time in recent weeks Tellefson has made a case for K-5 at the expense of other projects. The motivation in each case was the same: To ensure that improvements to K-5 would make it both a bypass of Leavenworth and Lansing and an expressway to the Kansas City metro, and to ensure it would be part of the $8.2 billion Kansas 10-year transportation plan —known as T-LINK — the Kansas Legislature approved this spring.

At Tellefson’s suggestion, the county sent letters in late July to the mayors of the four largest county cities, asking the cities join in amending the T-LINK priority list the county and cities developed jointly by dropping support for the expansion of the Kansas Highway 92 Missouri River bridge from two lanes to four lanes and support only the K-5 improvements.

The initial improvements would realign K-5 as a four-lane road from I-435 in Wyandotte County to K-7/U.S. Highway 75 at McIntyre Road in Lansing. The second and third phases would construct a bypass around Lansing and Leavenworth.

Tellefson’s concern with the K-92 bridge is the lack of support for the project in Missouri. He argued K-5 would appeal to the Kansas Department of Transportation because it would benefit and win support of Brown, Atchison, Jefferson and Wyandotte counties.

An economic impact study would be needed if K-5 were to be a T-LINK project, and Tellefson said having a positive one in hand would greatly impress KDOT.

If Tellefson is to be successful Thursday, he may need supporters of the requested K-7 study to join him in seeing the greater benefit of the K-5 analysis. That includes Lansing Mayor Ken Bernard and other representatives of that city who spoke in favor of the K-7 study at the July 29 commission meeting.

And as one commissioner acknowledged July 29, the K-7 study had value.

“We don’t have a land-use study for any of the county’s highways” Commissioner John Flower said. “Here’s an opportunity to have one for one (highway) at no cost to the county. I’ll put my hat in the ring for that.”

A group of Leavenworth and Wyandotte county civic and business leaders have been meeting for some time about the corridor, said Mell Henderson, director of transportation for MARC. They agreed more study was needed of land uses and economic development potential along the corridor, but MARC can only act on requests from the local governments it works for, Henderson said.

A July 27 meeting got the interested parties and local government officials together with MARC and led to Leavenworth County’s requests two days later for the MARC study, Henderson said.

The $50,000 county commissioners mentioned last week was a “ballpark” figure MARC has available in Kansas Department of Transportation controlled federal transportation planning dollars for a study, Henderson said.

County commissioners agreed to request a K-7 study that started at State Avenue to the south. Just how far north was debated before it was agreed to request “through Leavenworth.”

Henderson said MARC would defer to Lansing and Leavenworth on the northern limit of the study.

The southern limit will apparently be State Avenue because the Bonner Springs representatives at the July 27 meeting indicated they had no interest in the study.

“They have their own planning and work they have underway,” Henderson said. “It didn’t sound like they saw the need to do any further work to supplement that.”

The scope of a K-7 study has not been determined if it does go forward, Henderson said. But he said it would involve a series of compatibility issues. Those include:

• What businesses or industries were compatible with the corridor and their demand.

• The compatibility of one city or jurisdiction’s development plans with its neighbors.

• The compatibility of land uses along the corridor with its ultimate upgrade to a limited-access freeway.

• The potential for future development in the corridor to help pay for highway upgrades through a transportation development district or other funding measures.

MARC is still waiting to hear from all local governments, Henderson said. It would only be after those requests are made and some “dust settles” that MARC would know the scope of the study, he said.

Even before reconsideration of the K-7 study was put on Thursday’s agenda, Henderson said more understanding of what could happen with K-5 was needed before the K-7 study began.

“We do need a bit of clarity and better sense of what is going to happen there,” he said.

Should the K-7 study go forward, it could be early 2011 before a consultant starts working on it, Henderson said.

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