Archive for Thursday, October 4, 2007

K-10 Association pushes KDOT for Turnpike/K-10 link

October 4, 2007

Some location along the K-10 corridor is poised to become a new business park hot spot, area economic development leaders told Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night.

Now, the question is whether the location will be in Douglas or Johnson county.

Rich Caplan, executive director of the K-10 Corridor Association, said his organization is pushing hard for the Kansas Department of Transportation or Kansas Turnpike Authority to officially begin studying a route for a road that would connect Kansas Highway 10 with a new interchange on Interstate 70 in Leavenworth County.

"We think a connection is inevitable," Caplan said. "It is just a matter of when."

Caplan said the entire 29-mile stretch of K-10 would benefit from the connector, but whichever county could land the project would be in a good position to attract new businesses to its tax base.

He said there appears to be at least three routes that state leaders should study. They include: a route that would be near Eudora, likely near downtown or just on the western edge of the city; a route on the western edge of De Soto; or a route on the eastern edge of De Soto.

The De Soto routes have the advantage of tying into the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant site, which is being redeveloped into a major residential and business park area. Caplan said the development group leading the Sunflower development has expressed an interest in running the road through the former plant and connecting it with Gardner, which is the future site of a major Burlington Northern Santa Fe intermodal transportation center.

City commissioners said Lawrence and Douglas County leaders have a decision about how aggressive they want to be in trying to lobby for the road and to land it in Douglas County.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he thinks strong consideration should be given to connecting the road to the existing K-10 and County Road 1057 interchange, which is midway between Eudora and Lawrence.

"I think we have an opportunity if we start working now and we work with the folks in Eudora and in Leavenworth County," Amyx said. "I think we can make a strong case that we should use that existing interchange instead of building a new one."

Mayor Sue Hack said she was open to the idea, but said Lawrence needed to be careful to not get in a situation where it was pitting Douglas County against Johnson County. That could hurt the overall success of the corridor, she said.

"If eastern Kansas isn't on solid ground, then none of us are going to be successful," Hack said.

Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said Douglas County ought to at least take a strong look at a route option, and then decide whether it wants to really lobby for the road. She said the road could create a real economic boon for the county because it would produce business park sites that have easy access to both K-10 and I-70.

"It would be like two highways for the price of one," Johnson said.

City and county leaders have some time to decide what direction to go on the project. Neither KDOT nor the turnpike authority have committed to study the road. But Caplan said he believes with enough lobbying that funding for the study could be found within the next year, especially if local governments were willing to provide some financial assistance.

Studying the project would be only part of the challenge. Any new route would require a new Kansas River bridge, which would put the project into the range of tens of millions of dollars. Caplan, though, said it is the type of project that could be funded by a future state comprehensive transportation program.

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