Archive for Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Commissioner: No decisions yet made on interchange route

August 31, 2005

Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke stressed Monday that the commission has not picked a route for a new road to connect U.S. Highway 24-40 with the Kansas Turnpike.

But in an interview Monday, Oroke discussed potential obstacles he sees with County Road 1 -- a route that the city and some large property owners favor.

During the past few weeks, discussions have been under way on the best route to follow when building a road to connect 24-40 with a planned turnpike interchange.

On Monday, Oroke discussed concerns about topography, land acquisition and floodplains along County Road 1.

In past discussions, Oroke has said little about whether he favors County Road 1 -- or a cross-country route that commissioner Don Navinsky is touting. Navinsky favors construction of a diagonal road that starts on 24-40 -- a half-mile south of Honey Creek Road -- and heads southeast to a turnpike interchange near where County Road 1 currently crosses the turnpike.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber has said little about his preferred route. And Oroke has only spoken in general terms about his concerns over the County Road 1 route.

On Monday, Oroke said plenty of figures still needed to be gathered as the county decides on the best route.

"When you're in an elected position and you're looking at taxpayers' dollars, you want to look at alternatives, what is best for the county, not only financially," Oroke said. "You want minimal disturbance and uproar in the community if you can alleviate it.

"And I'm not sure that the west route (the road Navinsky favors) wouldn't create a disturbance in running across some of those properties."

At a county commission meeting Aug. 18, a county official said the cross-country route likely would affect 12 landowners.

The County Road 1 route, meanwhile, would involve two landowners along the east side of the road. The largest property owner on the east side -- Paul McKie -- has told city officials that he will work with officials seeking easements.

But Navinsky has said gaining that easements could prove expensive.

The Leighty property

Paul McKie and his wife, Elizabeth, owners of Tailgate ranch, have said they would voluntarily annex their property into the city if County Road 1 is chosen as the connecting road. Tailgate Ranch covers more than 2,000 acres on the east side of County Road 1.

The property parallels County Road 1 much of the way from Kansas Avenue south of Tonganoxie to the turnpike -- except for a 238-acre tract on the northeast corner of Hemphill Road and County Road 1. That land is property owned by the estate of Julius Leighty.

Oroke said he had heard that the land eventually was to be transferred to Kansas University for a nature preservation.

However, Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez said Monday that he received a letter from First State Bank and Trust representing the Leighty property. The letter stated that if County Road 1 was selected as the turnpike access corridor, it was likely trustees would ask the city to be voluntarily annexed into the city, as the McKie's have asked with Tailgate Ranch.

Oroke said the Leighty property is in a flood plain.

In addition, Oroke said it's possible the area could be wetlands. Because of that possibility, he has asked Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning to contact the Kansas Department of Natural Resources for a determination on that land.

Topographically speaking

If the cross-country route were chosen, the land would be more level that the County Road 1 route, according to a Leavenworth County topography map of the area.

Oroke also said "sight distance" could be an issue when choosing an exit area off 24-40. The state, Oroke said, requires 10 feet of clear view for every mile in the speed limit. That would equal 650 feet on 24-40, which has a 65 mph speed limit.

Oroke said building the exit closer to Tonganoxie could be more difficult because of "sight distance."

"The farther north you go, the sharper the curve would have to be," Oroke said.

City officials envision the connecting road coming off 24-40 near Honey Creek Road, which is a half-mile south of where County Road 1 currently connects to 24-40 south of Tonganoxie.

Rumor mill

Oroke, who lives just south of Tonganoxie, said he's heard of rumors circulating through Tonganoxie that he owns land where the potential cross-country route could go through.

He said Monday that was incorrect. He said his son-in-law, developer Mark Himpel, owns a small piece of land north of Reno north of Woodend Road, but that's the only possible connection.

"When people get desperate, they get vicious," Oroke said.

More discussion

The evaluation of the two potential connecting roads will continue in the coming weeks.

In an e-mail sent to The Mirror on Monday, Barbara Anderson, project manager for HNTB, said the firm is developing exhibits showing the two alignments with pros and cons for both routes. After that information is presented at a county commission meeting, Andersen said she hopes to select a preferred alternative that HNTB can analyze further for a cost estimate. Andersen hopes to schedule that meeting for next week. If a preferred alternative is chosen at that time, Andersen expects a final report will be presented in late September.

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