Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2005

Leavenworth County officials plan road trip

Delegation to lobby members of Congress for financial help with upgrade of turnpike access road

December 22, 2005

In late January, a group of Leavenworth County officials will make a pitch to members of Congress for federal funding to upgrade a county road leading to a new turnpike interchange.

And Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez is working feverishly, helping prepare a package of information to distribute during the two-day trip. Council member Jason Ward also will join the 11-member delegation.

The central issue for Yanez and Ward is upgrading Leavenworth County Road 1, from U.S. Highway 24-40 south to Kansas Highway 32. Kansas Turnpike Authority officials have said they will construct an interchange along the county road, if that road is improved.

Preliminary cost estimates have set that upgrade at $18 million to $20 million. The county plans to use $7 million or $8 million on the improvements. But the question of where the additional dollars will come from hasn't been answered. And so, area officials are looking to federal coffers.

"We'll talk about the regional benefits of the project, along with development potential," the city administrator said.

Yanez said he's hopeful county commissioners soon will decide that upgrading the county road route -- rather than constructing a new cross-country road -- is the best idea.

"There needs to be some formal action to notify everybody that this is the road that we support," Yanez said Monday night during a city council work session.

In addition, Yanez and several city council members said they would like those preliminary cost estimates to be refined, which would require additional engineering work.

"The county should considering looking at those numbers again," he said. â??Can they be whittled down at all? Leavenworth County needs to determine what road and how much. Those are the key questions that need to be answered for us to put that proposal together."

Shawn Stover of HNTB engineering firm said it's possible the cost of the county road upgrade could be reduced. But determining that would require additional study -- which could cost an estimated $6,000, he said.

"Maybe we take a step back and say, do we really need that right now," he told council members Monday. "Maybe you don't need to reconstruct all of the ditches. ... We know we can't build the whole road. We need to figure out areas where we can really enhance safety and have a road that will last."

Council members said that while they couldn't take action at a study session, they are interested in contributing several thousand dollars, if the county wants to refine those cost estimates.

But there's one catch: The cross-country road must come off the table.

"The city of Tonganoxie has no interest in spending a penny on that," Yanez said. "That thing is onerous. It has no economic development potential."

Council member Velda Roberts agreed, saying perhaps the city could contribute $3,000.

"There is an advantage to investing some money," she said. "We don't want to go out and pay the whole tab. We may have to pay half of it. ... But we're interested in only one road."

"I like the idea of the $3,000, like Velda said," Mayor Dave Taylor said.

The council took no action Monday night.

In the meantime, Yanez and other city and county officials are working to secure letters of support for the improvement of County Road 1 from Eudora, Baldwin, Ottawa, Lawrence, Douglas County, Jefferson County, Johnson County, Basehor, Linwood, Leavenworth and Lansing -- as well as area economic development groups.

Concurrently, Yanez will serve on a small committee charged by the county commission with exploring other funding options for completion of the road.

"There are a lot of things happening daily on this," Yanez said. "... We're moving, but we've got a lot of ground to cover."

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