County, city differ on best access road
County Road 1 is the leading candidate for the site of a turnpike interchange.
But what route would connect the Kansas Turnpike and U.S. Highway 24-40 is sparking debate.
Last Wednesday, Leavenworth County commissioners met with Tonganoxie officials, along with the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the Kansas Department of Transportation to discuss the possible interchange. HNTB engineering of Kansas City, Mo., a firm hired to study the potential interchange, led the discussion at the courthouse.
KTA representative Tom Wurdeman said the area where County Road 1 crosses over the turnpike is the only option KTA has considered. In the next few weeks, HNTB will formulate plans for other potential interchange sites.
The interchange would be Leavenworth County's first along the turnpike.
Plans call for construction of a road -- a "super-two" highway, which is a two-lane highway with extended shoulders -- to link the new interchange with 24-40.
Currently, these two possible routes are under consideration:
- At least two county commissioners want to build a cross-country, diagonal road. That road would jut off 24-40 at a point that is one mile south of Honey Creek Road and head toward the new interchange.
- The city, however, wants the road to follow County Road 1 as much as possible. The city favors building a new east-west road from 24-40 -- about a quarter- to a half-mile south of Honey Creek -- and then following the County Road 1 route to the new interchange.
Honey Creek is about a half-mile south of where County Road 1 and U.S. 24-40 currently intersect.
Tonganoxie City Council members Steve Gumm and Velda Roberts, as well as City Administrator Mike Yanez, attended last week's meeting.
Tonganoxie officials are lobbying for a route along County Road 1.
"We would lose the opportunity to have some very attractive economic development," Roberts said later in an interview about the cross-country route.
Yanez agreed with Roberts.
"I'm glad to see the County Road 1 option is going to be explored and hopefully the comments we made supporting County Road 1 as opposed to the cross-country option have some appeal to the county and Kansas Turnpike Authority," Yanez said.
The County Road 1 option from Honey Creek Road to the potential interchange is about 2 1/2 miles. The cross-country route, meanwhile, appears to be shorter.
During the meeting, Tonganoxie officials mentioned that a property owner expressed interest in voluntarily annexing land into the city along the east side of County Road 1.
The land, owned by Paul and Elizabeth McKie and known as Tailgate Ranch, includes 2,000 acres. A lawyer representing the McKies recently sent a letter to the Tonganoxie City Council emphasizing the McKies' support for the use of County Road 1 as the connecting link between the turnpike and U.S. 24-40.
County Commissioner Don Navinsky voiced concern for the road, saying he didn't want "another K-7," referring to Kansas Highway 7, which has few frontage roads.
"We don't want a highway that has all these houses on it," Navinsky said.
On Friday, Roberts said the area could be developed for residential, business and industry with the use of reverse access roads, or frontage roads.
"We want to limit direct access so traffic can flow well," Roberts said.
Negatives brought up during last Wednesday's meeting about the County Road 1 option included cutting down hills along the hilly road and replacing a bridge. As for the cross-country route, land acquisition could involve several landowners, as opposed to dealing with only the McKie property along County Road 1.
The issue will be discussed again at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Leavenworth.
Tonganoxie officials asked to meet with county commissioners to further discuss their position in support of County Road 1 as the connection between 24-40 and the turnpike. The meeting will be in county commission chambers at the Leavenworth County Courthouse, 300 Walnut. The meeting is open to the public.