Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2008

KDOT officials foresee an increase in traffic

February 21, 2008

Caution: Increased traffic ahead.

That's the sign the Kansas Department of Transportation and representatives of some area counties are seeing when they look toward the future.

"There are some major developments that we believe are going to have some impact on transportation in this region," said Thomas Dow, KDOT transportation planner.

Five counties will be affected by those developments and the increased traffic they will generate. Dow and Chris Herrick, KDOT's chief of transportation planning, recently invited commissioners from those counties - Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Wyandotte - to a meeting to discuss those issues.

KDOT wanted to gauge the interest from those counties by conducting a study to determine what the traffic effect will be from the developments.

The developments include:

¢ A $1 billion intermodal transportation facility being built near Gardner by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

¢ Redevelopment of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant site at De Soto.

¢ Redevelopment of the Farmland Industries chemical plant site in eastern Lawrence.

¢ A new Interstate 70 interchange south of Tonganoxie.

¢ Continued growth near the Kansas Speedway in western Wyandotte County.

"It will be a high-level study looking at the transportation needs of those counties, primarily but not exclusive to the state highways," Dow said. "It would include the turnpike."

In Douglas County, Kansas Highway 10 and U.S. Highway 56, which runs from Gardner through Baldwin City, are expected to be affected. The Sunflower and Farmland sites are along K-10. The Tonganoxie I-70 interchange could funnel more traffic to K-10, county leaders say.

Some of the development from the BNSF-Gardner intermodal facility could spill into Douglas County, said Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson, who attended the KDOT meeting along with Keith Browning, county engineer and public works director.

Johnson noted that the intermodal facility will be on a 1,000-acre tract where BNSF warehouses are likely to be built, while individually owned warehouses might be built nearby. He thinks some of those might spread into Douglas County.

"There may be an opportunity to have some light warehouses built along that road that would create warehousing for distribution into the Baldwin and Lawrence area," Johnson said.

Last week, Johnson asked county planners to look into revamping the county industrial zoning law so that there is an aspect of it that specifically addresses light warehousing.

Big truck traffic is likely to increase on the state and federal highways, but neither Johnson nor Browning think there will be significantly more trucks on county roads.

"I don't think it will be truck traffic; I think it could be more commuter traffic with people getting from their homes to work," Johnson said.

Thousands of new jobs are expected to be created as the intermodal facility develops over a 20-year period, according to projections by the Kansas City Development Council. Johnson thinks some of the new workers might decide to live in eastern Douglas County.

KDOT would take the lead on finding and working with a consultant that would conduct the traffic study.

"Do the (highway) facilities have the capability of accommodating (traffic) demand, and if not, do we need to look at adding capacity to existing facilities or develop new highway corridors?" Dow asked.

No decision has been made to hire a consultant and there is no cost estimate. KDOT would pay for the study, Dow said. It would be later this year before a study could be launched, Dow said.

Johnson said he thinks the five counties are supportive of the KDOT initiative.

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