Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Erroneous highway plans to be revised

December 22, 1999

Tonganoxie officials have been working since last Thursday to correct an error made in an application to the state for funding for improvements to U.S. 24-40 Highway.

Last Wednesday, Leavenworth County officials submitted the application to the Kansas Department of Transportation for the state's System Enhancement Program.

The document was supposed to call for new U.S. 24-40 Highway to run from Tonganoxie to five miles east of Perry. Instead, the application contained a request for a highway that would run generally along the existing highway route and bypass Tonganoxie by about three miles.

"I think it's a big problem," said state Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing. "It's more than a glitch. We need to get it corrected."

Wilk has talked to state transportation officials, who have told him that Leavenworth County can clarify its proposal. On Thursday, Wilk said, he and Tonganoxie officials plan to meet with the Leavenworth County Commission in an attempt to begin ironing out the problem.

"We want to get an engineering cost-analysis done on the original proposal," Wilk said.

The plan that the state reviewed in August called for a new highway route that would follow as direct a route as possible between Tonganoxie and Perry. Since then, however, an engineering firm conducted a cost study on the other plan.

"We need to get our application squared away to match up with our original intent," Wilk said. "And we're going to get that done as quickly as possible."

Pat Albert, president of the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce, called the situation "a total disaster."

He did, however, accept some of the blame for the problem.

"The proposal comes from the county, not the city of Tonganoxie, and we might have dropped the ball a little bit," he said. "We let the people at the county level take care of it."

The route contained in the proposal submitted last week carries a $197 million price tag for 24 miles of highway, while the direct-route plan likely would run in the $50 million to $60 million range for 12 miles, Albert said.

"The county got this proposal from Bucher, Willis and Ratliff (engineering firm), and they wrote a cover letter and never looked at the proposal," Albert said. "They signed off on the proposal, signed off on the $197 million, and never looked in the envelope."

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