Archive for Tuesday, August 28, 2012

U.S. 56 upgrades not high on KDOT list

August 28, 2012

A $22 million commuter bus line on Interstate 70, a toll lane for Kansas Highway 10, and an expansion for part of the South Lawrence Trafficway are all recommended projects in a state study that looks at transportation needs for the next 20 to 30 years.

Leaders with the Kansas Department of Transportation on Monday briefed local officials about its new 5-County Regional Transportation Study, and noted public transit options are getting a serious look.

“The idea of a transit route on I-70 looks promising,” said Jim Tobaben, a state-hired consultant for the study. “We know there are a lot of commuters on that route heading both east and west from Lawrence.”

KDOT officials already have agreed to conduct a more detailed study of possible options for a commuter bus line that would travel from Topeka to Lawrence to Kansas City via Interstate 70.

The 5-County plan estimates it would cost $22 million to start up the service and operate it for a 10-year period. It was one of the higher scoring projects in the study.

A project to expand the service of the K-10 Connector service that travels between Johnson County and Lawrence also scored well. The study recommended a project that would make the project more friendly to traditional commuters, in addition to the student population the service currently reaches. One plan calls for the service to go deeper into Johnson County, taking riders to the 119th and Metcalf area where riders could access other public transportation.

None of the projects, however, are expected to happen soon. Thomas Dow, a state transportation planner, said the study anticipates most of the projects won’t have an opportunity to win funding until the 2020 to 2040 time period. But he said KDOT likely will select a handful of projects to do preliminary engineering in case unexpected funding materializes.

The five counties covered in the study are Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Wyandotte.

Other Douglas County projects that are recommended in the draft report include:

• Widen K-10 to a six-lane freeway from Noria Road to I-435. One new lane in each direction would be designated for use by transit, carpool vehicles and other high-capacity vehicles. Other drivers could pay a toll if they wanted to drive in the faster moving lane.

• Widen the existing portion of the South Lawrence Trafficway — the section from U.S. 59 to Interstate 70 — to four lanes. Even with a $98.5 million price tag, the project was the top-ranked project in the K-10 corridor portion of the study.

• Construct park and ride facilities along K-10 near U.S. Highway 59, Noria Road, Eudora and De Soto.

• Install ramp metering equipment along K-10. The advanced traffic signals would be located near the end of ramps and would limit how much traffic could enter the freeway at once.

The study, however, did not recommend any major improvements to U.S. Highway 56 as it travels through Baldwin City. The highway is connected to the developing intermodal rail and truck distribution center in Edgerton.

But state officials said their modeling predicts 85 percent of the traffic from the intermodal center will arrive and leave via Interstate 35.

Local officials urged state officials to be sure of those numbers.

“I can tell you that I hear a lot concerns from that part of the county about how the intermodal will impact Highway 56,” said Keith Browning, director of public works for Douglas County.

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