OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — In an effort to reduce congestion along U.S. 69 Highway, the Kansas Department of Transportation – along with the city of Overland Park – is looking at ways to expand the highway from 103rd to 179th Street.
The two options would each add a lane – However, the one garnering a lot of attention is the use of an express toll lane, which KDOT recommended.
KDOT also asked for $20 million from the city of Overland Park to help pay for the project in order to speed up the project's timeline and give it priority.
"We know that we’re going to have to have a decision on local contribution quickly so that it gives US 69 to hit that schedule," Lindsey Douglas, KDOT assistant secretary, said.
Douglas told the council U.S. 69 has become not only congested but a safety issue, as it's the busiest four-lane highway in the state. She also pointed out drivers don't have to pay the toll if they don't use the other two lanes.
Toll prices can range from 30 cents for a short trip to $1.75 for the entire route, depending on demand and price fluctuations.
Douglas said the toll option is $85 million dollars cheaper than the other route, which would include widening and adding a lane.
The public weighed in on this project, with some giving it the green light.
"We have a clearly demonstrated need," Overland Park resident Greg Musil said. "We have a recognized funded source and we get more bang for our buck and we get it faster with us, and the buck comes from a user."
Tracey Osborne Oltjen, president and CEO of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, said the toll option can provide "critical improvement in a cost-effective manner."
But others want the city to pump the brakes on the express toll-lane option.
"Why can’t we do a bond?" Richard Miller, who attended the meeting, said. "I mean, let’s do a doggone bond and let the people vote for it. If they say, 'Yes,' great. They do it. If, 'No,' we’re going to live with what we have."
Michael Keller, who also spoke at the meeting, had similar thoughts.
"It strikes me as KDOT’s attitude is more of a, 'It's my way or no highway,' as opposed to a more reasonable, 'Let’s see if we can figure a way to pay for the damn thing,'" Keller said.
The Overland Park City Council will make a final decision on which option and how much they are willing to chip in at its next meeting on Monday at the Overland Park City Council chambers.