Yielding to oncoming traffic
Winchester interchange not impossible, KDOT says
Despite Kansas Department of Transportation preferences, a third Kansas Highway 10 interchange at Eudora wasn't beyond the realm of possibility, KDOT's director of planning and development, Terry Heidner, told Eudorans and area civic leaders who gathered Thursday night. The group discussed how a study of K-10's future would affect Eudora.
Unsurprisingly, leaders from Eudora emphasized the need for a Eudora interchange either at or near Winchester Road. Heidner said KDOT preferred to have interchanges more than a mile apart in rural, high-speed settings.
"I don't think we're going to sit here and tell you that's an absolute," Heidner said.
Moreover, Eudora Planning Commission Chairman Kurt von Achen said K-10 hardly classified as a rural roadway as it passed through Eudora.
Heidner estimated an interchange could cost between $5 million and $6 million at the cheapest. That did not including land purchase, which could boost the cost to $10 million to $15 million. Designed properly, an interchange would last 20 to 30 years.
State House Representative Rob Boyer asked how KDOT balanced requests from cities along the corridor, which essentially compose the Olathe Republican's state congressional district.
"Everyone can't get what it wants done," he said.
Heidner said KDOT was guided by a plan that carried the highway to 2009. Part of finding out what needed to be done, he said, was learning from communities through outreach like Thursday's meeting in Eudora, which drew civic leaders from Eudora, Lawrence, Douglas County and the state, as well as KDOT leaders, engineers and a few interested citizens.
Because any interchange for west Eudora would be years away, Mayor Ron Conner said it would be important to look at frontage roads, and Heidner said such plans would need to be incorporated with KDOT's overall plan for the highway.
Conner and Eudora City Council member Rex Burkhardt offered other needed improvements in Eudora, such as upgrading the overpass spanning K-10 as improvements were made to Church Street, as well as finishing 20th Street to Winchester Road, creating a bypass for the southside of Eudora. USD 491 Superintendent Marty Kobza said the district had prepared a road for such a future bypass to alleviate traffic on Church Street.
"We have high school drivers, and any space they could get would be helpful," Kobza said.
Other factors KDOT will be forced to consider in its study will be the future development of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, which leaders acknowledged would have an intense impact on Eudora and De Soto, as would the future development of the Farmland property in east Lawrence. That city's mayor, David Dunfield, said that land's future was a "coin toss" at present.
Eudora City Administrator Mike Yanez said he was concerned how the future of the south Lawrence trafficway would affect the K-10 study. But engineers and those working on the year-long study said upgrades KDOT was looking at -- like lane expansions and bike/pedestrian trails -- would be needed, regardless of whether K-10 finishes its loop from south Lawrence to east Lawrence, bypassing congested 23rd Street.
In a nutshell, Eudora's main concern with K-10 is and would be the safety issues surrounding increasing numbers of people traveling 70-plus mph through Eudora city limits, Burkhardt said, especially during high-traffic periods like KU basketball games.
"It's crazy out there," he said. "People are flying by."
Increased traffic could be eased if KDOT considered public transportation, said Lawrence City Commissioner Dennis "Boog" Highberger, who added the time had come for a commuter bus system on K-10.
"Roads are a self-fulfilling prophesy," he said. "You build additional lanes, traffic will increase."
Discussions about whether possible future lanes should be built toward or away from the median and whether lane barriers should separate the two directions of traffic boiled down to a debate between safety considerations and the aesthetics of the highway. It was pointed out that despite growth along the corridor, which becomes more evident as leaves fall off the trees and reveal the adjacent communities, K-10 has more or less retained a rural landscape, something on which the Mid-America Regional Council hopes to capitalize with the bike/pedestrian trails, historical markers and prairie habitats it envisions for the roadway.
Dunfield, who in addition to being Lawrence mayor is also president of the K-10 Association's executive committee, echoed praise for the highway's aesthetics.
"The K-10 Association emphasizes the environmental qualities about the landscape; not just to meet the traffic flow but also the environmental qualities that are pretty special about the highway," he said. "The green median in the highway is an important feature."