Thursday, June 01, 2006

South Lawrence Trafficway

The only member of the Kansas Congressional delegation not backing the SLT represents the area it would go through. The proposed route for the Trafficway would pass through an area reported to contain a burial ground of a school for Native Americans. It would also pass through an area of restored wetlands that serves as a refuge for wildlife, for people seeking tranquility, and for researchers. The Lawrence City Commission and the county's Planning Commission oppose that route.

Of course, those commissions exhibited poor planning in allowing west Lawrence to expand like a cancer without having traffic planning in place to begin with. West Lawrence is a commuter community, mostly for Kansas City workers. For people in the subdivisions of west Lawrence to get to Kansas City either requires them to take the toll road or to travel down arterial roads full of traffic lights before hitting a free highway.

That highway continues to the west of Lawrence, and people have been trying to figure out a route for the connection for years. The available space closest to Lawrence runs through the Baker Wetlands, an area that had wetlands on it and where existing wetlands were expanded and improved for study and public enjoyment. As the planning for the trafficway proceeded, Native American activists pointed out that some residents of the original Haskell School had been buried in the wetlands. They refused to reveal where the gravesites were, so the trafficway can't be re-routed nor the bodies moved.

Haskell originated as an elementary school where Native students were sent to learn about the Western world. Today, the lands are used by Haskell Indian Nations University, a university that's free for any member of any native nation. KU professors help teach courses there, and students have access to the KU course catalog.