BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. —
Dozens of people turned out Thursday at the Baxter Springs Community Center to weigh in on a planned four-lane freeway in Cherokee County.
The public meeting was presented by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Construction on the $38 million project is scheduled to start in the fall of 2017 or the spring of 2018. It would expand U.S. Highway 166 to freeway status from the U.S. 400-U.S. 166 junction on the west to the Missouri-Kansas state line on the east. It would be the last leg of a plan to make U.S. Highway 69 a four-lane highway between Kansas City and the Missouri line.
Those in attendance who volunteered for interviews were primarily concerned with how the proposed highway route would affect their properties or houses.
“This is going to cut our property completely in half,” said Jane Starina. She said she raises cattle to pay taxes and insurance, but the highway would eliminate most of her pasture.
“This is ridiculous,” she said.
“I’m concerned about lack of privacy and increased noise,” said Stephanie Keith, who lives near Baxter Springs. “This is a half-mile closer to our home. Why is it so important they move the road? I kind of like having a mile between me and the highway.”
Keith said she lives in the country to avoid traffic.
“It’s probably already a done deal,” she said.
Mildred Paxson attended the meeting with her daughter, Susan Landreth.
“It looks like it’s not going to affect us,” Landreth said. They also said it didn’t look as if they would have as much access to the highway as they do now, and emergency vehicles wouldn’t have as much access to them.
“I guess we probably need it,” Landreth said
Bob Abbott, of Baxter Springs, said his home is on the route of the planned highway.
“I didn’t move out in the country to lose my property to the highway system,” he said.
Tim Welch said his five-acre tract is the last property before one reaches the state line, and the highway would miss it.
“I was up here pretty nervous and hot” until he determined the route, he said. “I’ve been nervous as heck. It took a lot of pressure off me.”
Wayne Williams, a former Baxter Springs city councilman, said he and his brother own property in the area, but the highway would not touch their property. He said he’s opposed to the highway plan anyway.
“I don’t think they need it,” he said. “I would rather see high-speed trains.”
THROUGH OCT. 31, Cherokee County residents are encouraged to participate in an online survey to gather opinions about the project plans. The survey is at www.us166survey1.com.