Work begins on controversial highway in south Lawrence - KCTV5

Work begins on controversial highway in south Lawrence

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LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -

After years of delays and legal battles, construction is beginning on a new route around Lawrence, but some are still bitterly opposed to the project.

The four-lane freeway will connect Interstate 70 northwest of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence.

The nearly $130 million South Lawrence Trafficway won't be completed until 2016, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation. Some property still must be bought.

Some believe the road will go over Indian burial grounds.

Proponents believe the project will smooth travel and make it easier to get motorists west.

"It's going to help by freeing up congestion for those many, many commuters that travel through and on the streets in the city of Lawrence," said Kimberly Qualls, spokeswoman for KDOT.

The wetlands that the highway will cut through once belonged to Haskell Indian Nations University. The land was turned over to Baker University more than four decades ago.

The wetlands are considered sacred ground where Indian children were buried. Construction changes would have to be made if remains are found. The area is also important to environmentalists.

Robbie Wood, president of Wetlands Preservation, said there are three main wetlands in Kansas. This is the smallest, but "has the highest plant diversity," he said.

He discounts promises to relocate the wetlands, saying it's too fragile to be relocated.

"They are still destroying it," he said.

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