Archive for Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Council calls K-7 freeway plan into question

March 28, 2012

After reluctantly agreeing to the state’s multi-million-dollar plan to make Kansas Highway 7 a freeway five years ago, the city of Bonner Springs now will make a move in opposition to it.

In a workshop prior to its meeting Monday, the council discussed its Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU< with the Kansas Department of Transportation to turn K-7 into a freeway, including the state’s plans to create interchanges at Kansas Avenue and 130th Street as part of the reconstruction of the interchange at Interstate 70. Two recent developments have encouraged the city to question if the freeway concept is still the best option, or if the costs are too high.

Bonner Spprings had been highly opposed to the concept but eventually agreed to the MOU.

John Helin, city manager, said the first thing to bring the issue back to the forefront was an independent study of the future of economic development in the corridor.

“The results of that were… the city that would be most negatively affected by a freeway in the K-7 corridor is, guess who? Bonner Springs,” Helin said.

The second development to make Bonner reconsider its stance occurred in late February, when the city of Olathe announced it was no longer supporting the freeway concept.

“To me that has a significant impact on the whole corridor,” Helin said. “… Once Olathe said, ‘Eh, we’re not supporting it in Olathe anymore,’ that seemed to me to beg the question is, if not there, and the corridor will sort of be broken up, then maybe we needed to re-look at it.”

Helin did some research and found situations elsewhere in the country in which building a super highway was not the best option in the end. He provided the examples to the council.

“I think the tendency of the departments of transportation is the goal to move as many vehicles as quickly as possible from point A to point B,” Helin said.

But that may not be the best solution, Helin said. While the city approved of the first three of 10 phases of recreating the K-7 and I-70 interchange, which are the only phases that are funded at this point, he suggested that perhaps the council should modify its memorandum of understanding with the state and ask the state to reconsider its stance to also create interchanges at Kansas Avenue and at 130th Street.

“There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth and slashing of clothes, but is it a good fight worth fighting or not?” Helin said.

Council members agreed that changing to a freeway concept would negatively impact the city’s businesses and agreed to suggesting that the state leave lights at Kansas Avenue, Canaan and 130th Street and use lane and grading changes to help traffic flow in the area. They said the new I-70 ramps should help correct much of the congestion in the area, so two more interchanges shouldn’t be necessary.

Council member Jeff Harrington said he would like to know how KDOT responded when Olathe withdrew its support, but Helin said KDOT officials hadn’t really reacted yet. Harrington and other council members were concerned that if they changed their support, KDOT may not help the city with its costs for relocating utilities related to the I-70 interchange construction.

Harrington said Bonner may as well pull out of the MOU completely, as the state wouldn’t be open to the suggestion of traffic lights.

“They’re going to come back and say ‘That’s not a freeway,’ and we’re going to say ‘Well, that’s all we’re willing to do,’” he said. “And then they’ll say ‘Well, we know what you want then.’ … I say we just tell them to take their show on the road and go pick on a different highway.”

The council agreed to have Helin modify the MOU and bring it back to the council for approval at a future meeting.

Council member George Cooper did not attend the meeting.

In other business, the council:

• Approved 6-1 amendments to the personnel policy. Council member Eric Freeman voted in opposition, saying he still believed employee complaints against the city manager should be reported to the governing body. The policy as written states that informing the governing body of complaints is at the discretion of the city attorney.

• Approved a special-use permit for a Verizon Tower at Bonner Springs High School.

• Approved an ordinance for digital submission of plans for public improvements.

• Approved 4-3 an ordinance to amend water meters and sewer connection requirements. Council members Freeman, Bob Reeves and Rodger Shannon voted in opposition.

• Approved all consent agenda items.

• Heard Smith proclaim April as Fair Housing Month in the city.

• Heard from a resident Mickey Hilton, who requested that the pet license fee be reduced for dogs who haven’t been spayed or neutered. Council members asked that the fee be discussed in a workshop prior to the next Council meeting, with Reeves suggesting the fee be reduced from $100 to $20.

• Heard from a representative of Heart to Heart International to have an event in the Centennial Park parking lot on June 16.

• Set a 2013 budget retreat for 5:30 p.m. May 24.

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