I would like to comment upon your Department’s K-10 Transportation Study as presented in November in DeSoto. I am writing on behalf of the over 700 members of the Wakarusa Group of the Sierra Club.
We appreciate your recommendation to begin planning a bus service along K-10. Mass transit in this area has long suffered from inattention. Instead, governments have continued the vicious and expensive cycle of building roads, which spurs sprawling development, which require more roads, etc. Such a policy is not economically or environmentally sustainable.
Unfortunately, we were disheartened by the artificially narrow scope of your study. We find mystifying your refusal to consider the air quality impacts of encouraging automobile traffic by widening K-10. We understand that KDOT’s mission is moving people efficiently. However, any reasonable definition of efficient must include consideration of the costs involved. Urinating in your bed is more efficient than getting up and going to the bathroom, if you ignore the costs of buying a new mattress and grossing out everyone. It is only consideration of all the costs that makes obvious the superiority of using the toilet.
The Kansas City region will soon fall out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. Once that happens, governments and consumers throughout the region will face numerous expenses related to making the air breathable. Plus, they will have to suck down contaminants with every breath until the situation is remedied. Encouraging increased traffic by expanding K-10 will only aggravate the situation. Wouldn’t it make sense to consider these costs now? Even better, shouldn’t KDOT explore every option for avoiding these costs? It is always cheaper and easier to avoid a mess than to clean it up.
We believe a thorough study would have looked at ways to reduce traffic on K-10, instead of declaring unrestricted expansion inevitable. There is no discussion of car pool lanes, getting employers to encourage employees to share rides, or other methods of reducing traffic. Also, the mention of mass transit is limited to a proposal that plans for it to be developed. Why couldn’t this study begin that planning process? Would KDOT have accepted the highway expansion part of this study if its conclusion was “Somebody ought to plan to expand the highway”? Why does it accept a mass transit plan saying “Somebody should plan for buses”?
Why couldn’t the study have reminded people that expanding roads always encourages sprawling development? The study could have then looked at how this development would have further added to traffic on K-10, creating more air pollution and necessitating still further highway expansion. Plus, the study could have considered how to work with cities and counties to plan for communities friendlier to mass transit and less reliant on constant road-building.
We understand that our proposals are ambitious and that this is only a preliminary study. However, we believe that the preliminary stage is precisely the time to be ambitious. We fear that we are being set up for a process in which it is never the right time to seriously consider alternatives to highway expansion. Alternatives don’t get consideration now because we are still in a preliminary stage. Later, when KDOT secures money for the highway, we expect to be told that it is too late to consider alternatives, that the highway must be expanded as quickly as possible, and that KDOT is only following plans already in place.
We urge you in the strongest possible terms to rethink and expand this study. It is little more than an ode to highways as an unstoppable force of the universe. We think Kansans deserve a professional and thorough study of every transportation option. We also think they deserve a study that recognizes that people breathe more than they drive. We hope that you will reconfigure this study to take into account the true costs of expanding K-10. And we hope that you remember that even animals are smart enough to know that you don’t pee where you sleep.
In November, KDOT released its study on the future of K-10. Unfortunately, the study came up short in several respects. The Wakarusa Group sent in the following letter commenting on these shortcomings.
Public Involvement Liaison
Kansas Department of Transportation
700 SW Harrison
Chair, Wakarusa Group of the Sierra Club