Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Report looks to steer changes

New approaches needed to preserve transportation mobility

April 20, 2006

Johnson County commissioners were warned last Thursday that city and county governments must change their approach to transportation if the mobility that defines the Johnson County lifestyle is to continue.

Last Thursday, Commissioner Patrick Segale of Shawnee reported the recommendations from a special task force on transportation he headed. The report acknowledges the county's population can currently get around well in personal automobiles, but cautioned that is threatened by increased congestion as traffic growth outstrips funding for roadway expansion, the population ages and fuel prices continue to increase.

The report offers a number of bold proposals designed to boost mass transit and lessen congestion on freeways. Among the recommendations were:

  • Adoption of land use planning and development standards that support mass transit and are pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
  • Working with the Kansas Department of Transportation to establish so-called HOT lanes on freeways that would be reserved for buses, those in car pools or motorists willing to pay for their use.
  • Exploring a number of funding sources for roads and transportation needs, including an excise tax and impact fees on new development in the unincorporated areas of the county, a transportation utility fee that would assess a tax on homes and businesses, and paying for new roads with tolls.
  • Encouraging the expansion of Johnson County bus transit links to Lawrence, Kansas University, Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo.
  • Adapting the city/county shared CARS street-improvement program to make transit, bicycle, trailways and sidewalks available for funding.

Key to accomplishing goals was the creation of the Johnson County Transportation Cooperative Council, Segale said. The body of elected officials from the cities and county, their staff members and constituency groups would attempt to establish a county consensus on transportation concerns and "associated land use issues," which would be especially helpful in dealing with KDOT, Segale said.

Segale said he would propose the commission provide the cooperative council with mill levy support of 4/10ths of a mill for staffing.

Commissioner Doug Wood of Olathe said he thought the cities should show their ownership in the cooperative council by contributing to it, but of more concern to commissioners was how the cities would respond to those parts of the proposal that calls that land use and development standards needed to consider such things as transit hubs and sidewalk connectivity.

The key would be their participation on the Transportation Cooperative Council and the benefits that could be realized in working together, Segale said.

De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson said he hadn't seen the report as of Monday. De Soto had a "clean slate" in terms of planning so it could incorporate any good suggestions that might be proposed. He predicted there might be some resistance from larger, more-established cities.

"I'm hearing they're thinking the county should be doing less not more," he said.

The report may be warrant for a "West Metro Connection Study" for a north-south route in western Johnson County, which would be part of a link from Interstate 35 to the Kansas Turnpike. Elsewhere in the report, it is suggested the new route could be a toll road.

Anderson wondered how a limited-access toll road would fit with the report's call for mobility, but said if a toll road was built through the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant it would be used.

At the conclusion of his report, Segale said he would bring the recommendations back to the commission for consideration in the coming months.

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