Commission discusses preliminary funding for priority MARC projects
The county will have to find money for upfront costs if two Leavenworth County transportation projects, both of which scored highly on a regional transportation priorities list, move ahead.
In his monthly public works update to the Leavenworth County Commission, county public works director Mike Spickelmier said Monday the two projects were placed on the Mid-American Regional Council’s Transportation Outlook 2040 Plan released June 29. The plan is to guide $18 billion in investment in various modes of transportation in the next three decades.
The two projects were a $42 million dollar widening of the bridge over the Missouri River in Leavenworth and the $39.5 million McIntyre Expressway — a realignment of Kansas Highway 5 from Interstate 425 in Wyandotte County to Kansas Highway 7 at McIntyre Road.
Spickelmier attributed the success in getting the projects on the list to their regional scope and support they had from the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing, Wyandottte County and the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The projects would be funded by state and federal dollars in the future, Spickelmier said. But to get them on future transportation improvement lists, such as the new Kansas transportation plan the Kansas Legislature approved this spring, the county and its local partners will have to pay for preliminary engineering and later environmental studies and easement acquisitions, he said.
“Suddenly, Leavenworth County, with Leavenworth and Lansing, have identified projects that play with the big boys,” Spickelmier said. “If we want to play with the big boys, we have to pony up.”
Preliminary engineering for federal projects must be done by consultants and would be expensive, Spickelmier said, citing engineering costs for the improvement of Leavenworth County Road 1 as $180,000 per mile.
The county doesn’t have that money. Public works submitted a 2011 budget with no capital improvements, and cuts were made to meet a county match obligation to a Kansas Department of Transportation bridge replacement.
Spickelmier suggested the county sales tax as a possible funding source for the studies in 2016, when its current debt obligation will be retired. That would require voter approval.
County Administrator Heather Morgan said as projects started vying for state and federal dollars, the process would get highly political. She, key staff members and city mangers from Lansing and Leavenworth are expected to be present at a September meeting that will be an opportunity to talk about sources of funding for engineering studies, she said.