City council not singing praises of Outlook 2040

April 15, 2010

An update of the Mid-America Regional Council’s Transportation Outlook 2040 plan left members of the Bonner Springs City Council dissatisfied with the outlook presented.

Transportation Outlook 2040 is a long-range plan designed to address the future of transportation and the funding of needed transportation projects in both Kansas and Missouri over the next 30 years. The plan is still in the initial drafting process, and has several steps to go through before it can be approved by the MARC Board of Directors. Frank Lenk, director of Research Services with MARC, presented the plan’s possibilities Monday night in a work session prior to the City Council meeting.

One of the main purposes of the plan, Lenk said, was to create a new and what he called “adaptive” growth pattern, where land is used more efficiently and economically in development and redevelopment. He said the current growth pattern wasn’t one that could withstand the next 30 years, especially with 2.5 million people expected to be living in the Kansas City metro area by 2040. The area, Lenk said, has enough space to hold about 5.5 million people, creating a more spread out pattern of growth that doesn’t make the best use of the space and will be more expensive in the long run.

“(If) we can only afford half of what we would like to build, than we can’t, probably can’t continue to grow in the way we have in the past,” Lenk said, noting that under the current pattern of growth it would cost $8.7 billion to build all the infrastructure needed in the neighboring states by 2040. About $5.3 billion of that could be slashed under an adaptive growth pattern, where the development is more focused in cities and urban areas, thereby requiring less infrastructure to be built in the first place.

“If we could grow in a more focused way, then we think we could have it all,” Lenk said.

MARC transportation planner Karen Clawson, who was contacted after the meeting, said there would be in the vicinity of $17.1 billion to spend on needed transportation projects in the region covered by MARC over the life of the plan. But it is how the money would be allocated that most concerned the Bonner City Council.

“If this is adopted by the MARC board, will it be the factor used in determining future determinations on how money is divied out for transportation projects?” city manager John “Jack” Helin asked, noting how hard it has been over the years for the city to be granted any money for road projects.

Lenk said the plan would be a factor, “but it certainly won’t be the be all and end all.” He said it wasn’t MARC’s intention to overlook the needs of the smaller cities in the Kansas City metro area.

“Bonner Springs is as important a community as Overland Park or Kansas City, Kan., and so on,” Lenk said. “But how that money gets allocated is still to be decided and we would welcome and want your input because we aren’t going to be unfair to an entire sector of the region.”

Following the presentation, council member Jeff Harrington remained skeptical that Bonner would be a factor at all under Transportation Outlook 2040, saying he felt the plan was dismissive of the needs of the city.

“It certainly seemed as if MARC’s assessment of their regional transportation policy plan overlooks Bonner Springs and its needs and future needs,” Harrington said. “We have led in redevelopment in our town … Now what we need for our regional transportation authority is more assistance in connecting the nodes and we’re one of their nodes, and it looks as if we’re far down on their priority list.”

A final draft of the plan will be voted on later this month by the MARC Board of Directors. Mayor Clausie Smith, who serves on the board, asked the council members how they thought he should vote, with the consensus being he should oppose the plan.

“In theory it’s great,” Helin said. “They never talk about the market forces that really end up driving a lot of things. My concern is that it takes a life of its own once it’s approved … we’ve been fighting for (work to be done on) 138th Street, and we’re not even on the list. I don’t think anything he said (alleviated) my fears.”

If and when the final draft of the plan is approved, the public may make comments or ask questions for a 45-day period before the actual plan is adopted. To see the current draft of Transportation Outlook 2040, go to

In other action Monday, the council:

• Unanimously approved the minutes of the March 22 meeting.

• Unanimously approved supplemental claims for city operations totaling $78,158.24 and regular claims totaling $983,757.46.

• Unanimously approved Public Housing Authority claims totaling $1,233.72.

• Unanimously approved all appointments to boards, committees and commissions, including the reappointment of Dana Wright and Kristen Christensen to the City Band Commission and the appointment of Tamara Hand and Judy Shelton to the Convention and Tourism Committee.

• Unanimously approved a Massage Therapist II license for Jerica Seaton-Brandon, who will operate at Pause … The Spa at 515.

• Unanimously approved drug and alcohol 2010 program funds totaling $18,935, to be used in substance abuse programs.

• Heard the city manager’s report. Included in John “Jack” Helin’s report was that a groundbreaking for the new Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway would be at 11 a.m. April 30.

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