Archive for Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Corridor study addresses 24-40 safety, future traffic concerns

July 18, 2007

Tonganoxie and Basehor residents expressed their desires Thursday to maintain safety and a regular pace of traffic flow along the U.S. Highway 24-40 corridor, with the idea of future growth in mind.

Project officials from Bucher, Willis and Ratliff played host to an open house at the Tonganoxie Performing Arts Center to discuss their long-term plan for the future growth of the U.S. 24-40 corridor. Thursday was BWR's fifth and final public meeting on the corridor study.

"I think the people have spoken up saying they don't want a 23rd Street in Lawrence," City Administrator Mike Yanez said. "They don't want this highway to be Metcalf Avenue from Tonganoxie to the Legends. We want to be able to move. And we want to be able to move quickly and safely."

Charlie Schwinger, senior vice president of traffic engineering and planning at BWR, gave a 15-minute presentation to roughly 75 attendees. He discussed recommendations gathered from a year-long study that focused on what the U.S. 24-40 corridor might look like in the year 2030.

From the study, which will be used by Leavenworth County, Tonganoxie and Basehor officials as a guideline for future planning along the corridor, Schwinger developed three main points in preserving U.S. 24-40: transportation, land use and design standards.

On the transportation front, BWR received a 95 percent confidence level that people like to travel on U.S. 24-40 without impediment. In other words, they like the regular traffic flow the highway provides.

Schwinger said with respect to safety, traffic signals weren't always the answer.

"The only purpose of signals is to create gaps in the traffic so that people can get out and they're not sitting there forever," Schwinger said. "It's a way of sharing a right to those intersections. Generally, you want to try and minimize the number of times that you cause people to stop."

BWR's studies predicted that by 2030, full access -- or access to an intersection from any direction -- would be anticipated along the U.S. 24-40 corridor from the following streets and roads: County Road 1 south of Tonganoxie; 14th Street, Fourth Street, Main and Laming Road in Tonganoxie; 206th, 198th Street, 182nd St. and 174th streets between Tonganoxie and Basehor; and 166th, 158th or 155th St., 147th St. and 142nd Streets in Basehor.

To preserve safety, the corridor study determined urban areas would have full access limited up to a mile. The suburban fringe areas would be limited to at least a mile access, while the rural areas would have full access for more than one mile.

Regarding land use, rural Tonganoxie resident Debbie Staples is well aware of the city's recent growth. She said the vision to preserve rural areas like hers in the midst of future growth was a good thing.

"What I'm opposed to is subdivisions popping up with no sewer or water, so they have to rely on the rural areas," Staples said. "They have to have control over the growth and this (plan) is one way to control it."

BWR chose the year 2030 in its long-term plan because the planning firm didn't expect booming growth in Tonganoxie and Basehor in the next few years.

BWR also hired specialists to conduct an economic market study that focused on growth trends along the corridor in five to 10 years.

"If you look at K-10 Highway, for example, from Johnson County west out to Lawrence, that's been very slow to develop," said Scott Michie, vice president of community planning at BWR. "It's been four lanes since the late '80s or early '90s and it hasn't had explosive growth. People think that you widen the highway to four lanes and it just mushrooms, but it doesn't really happen that way."

The economic market study suggested there would be several hundred acres of nonresidential development -- light industrial, retail and commercial -- available in the next 10 years along the corridor. There wouldn't be thousands of acres available, though.

"There's not going to be another Village West here in five years," Michie said.

The corridor study will conclude in August, but project team officials will continue to meet after that to determine future plans for the corridor. In addition to the county, Tonganoxie and Basehor, the study also is being funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation and Mid-America Regional Council.

The study's final cost is expected to be between $200,000 and $250,000, with KDOT slated to pick up nearly two-thirds of the bill. MARC will contribute $20,000 and the remaining one-third of costs will be split among the county, Tonganoxie and Basehor.

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