Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2006

City checks in on SLT stance

June 1, 2006

As other governing bodies around the area do the same, the City of Baldwin City has registered its opinion on the controversial South Lawrence Trafficway that has been stalled south of Lawrence for decades.

Mayor Gary Walbridge sent a letter to an administrator in the Federal Highway Administration stating the city favors the 32nd Street path for the SLT, which will go through the Baker Wetlands.

Other governing bodies have had differing opinions. The Lawrence City Commission voted 3-2 against the SLT. The Tonganoxie City Council voted 5-0 in favor it. The Lawrence-Douglas County Commission voted 5-2 against.

Because of the timing involved, there was no vote by the Baldwin council.

"There was no council action, formally or informally," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "This was issued by the mayor, mostly due to the fact that I learned of the public comment period after our meeting on May 15 and the council doesn't meet again until June 5. The comment period was over at the end of May.

"Gary and I talked about some and the main issues were timeliness and the potential benefit of the part of the project that would move our troubled waterline out of the wetlands," he said. "Also, as noted in the letter, Baker's position was a key element, as well."

In Walbridge's letter, he first states the city's preference for the 32nd Street alternative and then explains why.

"The City of Baldwin City believes that the 32nd Street alignment is the best route for this necessary highway project that will assist in connecting the southern portions of the greater Kansas City area to Interstate 70," Walbridge states in the letter. " The connection of U.S. Highway 59 to Kansas Highway 10 via a bypass south of Lawrence is an important project to the City of Baldwin City for a few different reasons.

"First and foremost, the 32nd Street alignment would provide beneficial access and interconnectivity of roadways for those of us that live directly south of Lawrence," he said. "The project of upgrading U.S. Highway 59 will only increase the need for such interconnectivity. Considerable effort has been put into the 32nd Street alignment to date. Duplicating the efforts of the Corps of Engineers and starting over from scratch at this point in order to consider any different alignment would unnecessarily delay the completion of this project at considerable expense in terms of both time and money."

Walbridge also explained the city's reasoning for backing the route because of what it means to the city's water supply and Baker University. Currently, a waterline under the Baker Wetlands provides the city's water and there have been numerous breaks in the line over the years. The line needs to be moved and this project would help accomplish that, he said.

"Second, the mitigation plan supporting the proposed 32nd Street alignment includes additions and enhancements to the Baker University Wetlands, and, frankly, any such benefit to Baker University is of benefit to the vitality of Baldwin City," Walbridge said in the letter. "Third, preliminary discussions for the project at the 32nd Street alignment included assisting the City of Baldwin City with the relocation of our sole source of treated potable water, as portions of our water pipeline are currently located on private easement in the Baker Wetlands and would need to be relocated. This would be of direct financial benefit to the citizens of Baldwin City."

The letter was dated May 19.

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