Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2001

Price of traffic tickets to increase

June 28, 2001

Next month, motorists will find the price of traffic tickets in De Soto have increased as steeply as gas prices.

City Attorney Patrick Reavey told the city council last Thursday that the city annually adopts a standardized traffic code While cities were free to develop their own fine schedules, the standardized code uses the schedule approved by the Kansas Legislature.

In the first such move since 1982, the Legislature passed a bill last spring that tripled traffic fines, Reavey said. Fines on state highways will increase July 1.

The city attorney said he would present a traffic ordinance that included the new fine schedule at the council's July 5 meeting. But new Municipal Court Judge Chuck Droege agreed to impose higher fines for driving under the influence this month. DUI fines will increase from $200 to $500 for a first offense. The second offense will now be a minimum of $1,000.

Truck drivers entering and leaving De Soto off the Amtrak facility on 82nd Street won't face fines at least for now.

Amtrak started a mail-and-package operation in De Soto last fall. The operation brings an average of 25 trucks a day to the Amtrak yard on 82nd Street.

When company officials informed the city of the operations last year, they explained federal law forbids local governments from zoning or regulating railroad operations. Amtrak attorneys also maintained any city attempt to regulate traffic in and out of the yard would be illegal because it would restrict interstate commerce.

Nonetheless, Amtrak did agree to pay for an independent study on the effect of its truck traffic. The study recommended Amtrak place warning signs on 83rd Street and make improvements to the 82nd and 83rd street intersection that would allow its trucks to make the sharp turn with less disruption to traffic.

In addition, the city asked Amtrak to help pay for the maintenance of 82nd Street, which officials say has noticeably deteriorated since the yard opened.

To date, Amtrak has not complied.

"It's just a matter of how long you want to continue with unsafe conditions down there," said Councilman Tim Maniez. "Are we going to wait until we have a serious accident before we do something?"

Reavey suggested two possible ways the city could pressure Amtrak. It could ban truck traffic on 82nd Street until Amtrak complied with the traffic study's recommendations, despite Amtrak's insistence that such a move would represent a restriction to interstate commerce.

"I'm confident you can restrict traffic as long as it is a health and safety concern," he said.

The city could also gain leverage through Amtrak's desire to purchase land the city of Olathe owns to the east of its yard, Reavey said. The company has indicated the property is needed for its operation.

In past discussions, Olathe indicated a willingness to make that sale conditional to Amtrak's compliance with the results of the traffic study.

"To be honest, I don't see any improvement happening anytime soon," Reavey said. "Hopefully, Olathe's restrictions of the sale will motivate them."

The council agreed on the second course of action and forewent a truck ban. Mayor Dave Anderson said he would call his counterpart, Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland, in the effort.

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