Archive for Wednesday, April 5, 2006

More traffic taking a toll

April 5, 2006

This time of year, it's not all that difficult to make a milkshake.

Just put a little milk and ice cream in a jar, close the lid and drive down a gravel road.

Mary Johnson lives on Kansas Avenue, about 1 1/2 miles west of Leavenworth County Road 2, also known as 158th Street.

Johnson said someone recently posted a "Pothole Parkway" sign on Kansas Avenue near County Road 2. And in Johnson's opinion, the sign is right on target.

The Leavenworth County commission will meet with residents about the Kansas Turnpike Authority's proposed interchange on County Road 1. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. Monday, at the courthouse in Leavenworth.

"All our roads are problems," Johnson said. "This is a very pothole road, I mean it is full of potholes right now."

And Johnson wants the county to improve Kansas Avenue.

That's a refrain county officials hear often.

"Rural roads are an issue that people associate with county government," said Chris Dunn, Leavenworth County's director of planning.

Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke said the county is in the midst of repairing several roads and bridges in various areas of the county.

And, they've recently been looking at Kansas Avenue. In fact, Oroke said he went for a recent drive along Kansas Avenue, which he described as a "washboard."

"We had a traffic count done, and there were about 712 automobiles in a 24-hour period," Oroke said Friday. "We discussed that with Bill Green yesterday."

Green is the county's deputy director of public works.

Oroke said it was likely the county would add Kansas Avenue to its project list.

"We're putting it (Kansas Avenue) on the active project list to start doing the things that will accumulate to have a final project," Oroke said. "The final project likely would be a chip and seal in 2007."

Oroke said the area of improvement would extend one mile, from County Road 2 to 166th Street.

Traffic sheds

Clyde Prem, transportation planning leader for HNTB, Kansas City, Mo., refers to traffic sheds when he talks about managing traffic. Traffic sheds can be compared to watersheds, in that residents use local roads to get to the major arterials that take them to work, like water flowing downstream from a creek to a river.

"A gravel road can take about 350 vehicles a day," Prem said. "That equates to about 35 an hour in a peak hour."

And, he said, it generally takes about 30 homes to generate that much traffic.

According to Dunn, 44 houses line Kansas Avenue, between County Road 2 and 174th Street. And the traffic counts the county has taken shows it's handling far more than Prem's threshold.

Still waiting

Mary Johnson has lived on Kansas Avenue since 1962. About 20 years ago she and her husband gave the county land along the edge of their property for road improvement.

She's still waiting.

"The superintendent of roads told us then they were doing this because they were going to upgrade our road soon," Johnson said. "Well we were glad to give them the ground."

But, she said, the roadwork never was done.

And since then, dozens of homes have been constructed in developments along Kansas Avenue.

Johnson said she was glad last year when voters passed the county's half-cent sales tax because she thought the proceeds would go to improving gravel roads.

But instead, she's worried that the county's plans to improve County Road 1 for the proposed turnpike interchange will soak up those funds.

Sales tax

Oroke said the one-cent sales tax voters approved last year will take effect in 2007.

"It's supposed to generate $2.5 million per year for 10 years," Oroke said.

But Oroke said commissioners planned to use those funds for major projects, such as improving County Road 1, working on the bridges over Stranger Creek, improving County Roads 5 and 8, as well has helping the county fire departments purchase communication equipment.

According to Oroke, even though the county commission sets priority for road work, the funding comes from the townships.

For instance, improvements to Kansas Avenue, which is in Sherman Township, would be paid by township funds.

And he said, if there are funds from development, such as road improvement fees and traffic impact fees, those funds could be used. It is rare, Oroke said, for funds from the county's general funds to be used to upgrade local service roads such as Kansas Avenue.

Oroke said that recently the county obtained traffic counters, which already have been used to check the traffic volume on Kansas Avenue.

This summer, Oroke said, the county plans to take traffic counts on every road and intersection in the county.

"We will have a baseline," Oroke said. "We will know how much traffic is going in each direction on every road and then we can begin to set priorities."

Meanwhile, when driving along County Road 2, Johnson maneuvers around the potholes -- as she watches out for traffic.

"When there's this much traffic, gravel roads do not work," Johnson said. "They want them (the roads) so cars can zip down here like a highway."

And, the gravel never seems to stay put, Johnson said.

"They put the rock to the edge and half of it's washed off in the ditches," Johnson said. "It just will never work."

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