Archive for Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Shouts and Murmurs: Tonganoxie no longer an island

May 24, 2006

Lawrence is light years ahead of Tonganoxie in development, and in development-related issues.

Some might say there are few similarities between the two cities, one with a population of 81,000, the other with 3,100.

But last week while attending a Lawrence City Commission meeting with my son for his school assignment, I was struck by the similarities of the issues discussed at the meeting -- and what lessons -- we can learn by watching how Lawrence handles its growth.

Cities, large and small, are likely to face similar issues when confronting growth. For instance, roads are a major in any city.

At last week's Lawrence commission meeting, a Lawrence resident who lives in an area of high growth said that several years ago she was asked to pay for road improvements on the east side of her property. Now, she's being asked to kick in money to improve a road on the west side of her property. She complained she likely won't use the new road, and said it's unfair to ask her to help pay for it.

Considering Tonganoxie's rapid growth, it's possible our city officials could deal with this type of situation in the future.

And then, discussion of the South Lawrence Trafficway began.

Of course that project, originally planned to take a route through the Baker Wetlands on 32nd Street, has long drawn criticism because of its significance related to Na-tive American culture, wild-life habitat and the environment.

After listening to comments from Lawrence-area residents, the commissioners voted 3 to 2, to support using an alternate route. Commissioners suggested the possibility of building the new road south of the Wakarusa River.

Though it may not at first seem the trafficway is relevant to Tonganoxie or to southern Leavenworth County, ultimately it may be.

Commissioners mentioned tying in a possible south Lawrence route with the Kansas Turnpike. This would mean lobbying for federal dollars to build a new bridge over the Kansas River near Lawrence to connect Interstate 70 with Kansas Highway 10. Meanwhile, Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County already are lobbying for federal dollars for a possible similar project that might possibly be near Eudora.

It's a strange set of events -- the large Lawrence possibly competing with the small city of Tonganoxie for a turnpike interchange and connecting roads and bridges.

And it's a situation relevant to Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County residents.

There are some who would say Tonganoxie should let Lawrence have the turnpike interchange and the responsibilities of managing development that would follow. And there are others who would say it's about time Leavenworth County has direct access to the turnpike and the anticipated growth that access would spur.

Earlier this year, Kansas Turnpike Authority announced plans to build a turnpike interchange on County Road 1 a few miles south of Tonganoxie. Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez has said this would result in explosive growth for Tonganoxie and southern Leavenworth County.

Lawrence is 14 miles from Tonganoxie, and it has a huge jump-start on development. But clearly, Tonganoxie soon could face major growth issues.

If we pay attention to issues that have arisen in Lawrence and look at how the city is handling them -- and consider how those situations relate to us -- Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County could benefit.

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