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U.S. 69 proposed express toll lane cheaper than alternative

Typical widening project costs $85 million more
U.S. 69 highway
Posted at 4:39 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 18:17:39-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Kansas Department of Transportation and the City of Overland Park agree that traffic on U.S. 69 must be addressed.

Camrie Minkler drives the corridor on her way to and from work. Many drivers like her say the expansion proposal can hit the road.

“I definitely don't agree with the toll. I'd be paying that toll twice a day for literally a 10 minute drive," Minkler said.

For some drivers, it's the proposed express toll lane they don't agree with. Others would like to see the expansion proposal come to a complete stop.

“There's other issues that they can fix on the roads rather than charging us for a road that we're already going on that doesn't really need work," said Jordan Gifford.

Conversations have merged between KDOT and the City of Overland Park regarding options and alternatives to reducing the congestion.

“Right now, we have pretty strong congestion in the morning peak and afternoon peak, which is causing traffic to drive on average, about 15 mph," said Lindsey Douglas, deputy secretary, KDOT.

Each day, KDOT says around 80,000 drivers travel the stretch between 103rd and 179th streets.

“The issue before us is really what is the best way to update this highway?" said Councilman Logan Heley.

Only the express lanes would require a fee to drive, while the other two lanes would remain the same.

The other expansion option would be a traditional widening project, but it would cost more money.

“It's about an $85 million more project to build traditional widening over the express option," said Douglas.

The price increase is due to collector-distributor roads. They would have to be constructed, connecting from the freeway to frontage roads. Meanwhile, the express toll lane would charge $1.50 to $1.75 during rush hours and be lower outside of those time periods.

“It's like 28 cents to 32 cents a mile, which is pretty far below the national average for these kinds of facilities," said Douglas.

Drivers trying to avoid a stand-still on the highway would like to hit the gas on the project.

"If they did the toll lane and the traffic was the way it was before, I would pay the money for the toll, because to get to work in half the time would be worth it for me," said Teri Chalker.

All of the toll money collected would go to the project.

“We're in the middle of the community engagement process, no decisions have been made. We still need the community's feedback," said Heley.

What drivers should know is that an expansion is likely, it's just which route KDOT decides to take. The expansion can be paid for through the toll fee, while the traditional widening project would be funded through sales and motor taxes.