Turnpike toll plaza set for fall opening
An $8.5 million construction project that is moving the Bonner Springs turnpike toll plaza seven miles west is well under way, said Tom Wurdeman, chief engineer for the Kansas Turnpike.
"Construction is moving along fine," Wurdeman said. "We're still planning on opening it this coming fall."
Construction at the 20-acre site began last spring. The toll plaza is being moved to help accommodate anticipated increases in traffic due to the April 2001 opening of the NASCAR track near the intersection of Interstates 435 and 70.
Included in the plans are three entry lanes for westbound traffic and seven lanes for traffic headed east. Two automated K-Tag lanes will help move traffic through the toll plaza.
Wurdeman said studies on the best types of automated booths are under way.
"We've been working on this for a couple of years," Wurdeman said. "Back East, some of the turnpikes do have ticket-issuing machines. We took some bids a year or so ago and we are working on the installation, testing the equipment, that type of thing."
Considering that traffic increases on the turnpike at an annual rate of 3 percent, about anything that will move traffic along is worth examining.
While traffic has increased, tolls have not changed since 1995, Wurdeman said.
Even so, the turnpike's total revenue for 1998 was $60 million.
The cost of building the new toll plaza will be paid from turnpike funds, Wurdeman said.
"The turnpike has no tax dollars never has never will," Wurdeman said. "It's self-supporting."
As far as whether Tonganoxie will have a more direct turnpike access in the future, Wurdeman said nothing would be done until there is a plan to upgrade Leavenworth County Road 1.
"The problem is, if we build an interchange there, there are going to be 80,000-pound semis that get off there," Wurdeman said. "If that road cannot carry that weight, it will tear it up in a very short time."