County looks hard at turnpike interchange
Leavenworth County could begin work in the next few years building a road that would link to an interchange on the Kansas Turnpike south of Tonganoxie.
Of course, many components of a puzzle must fall into place, including voter approval of the extension of the county's one-cent sales tax.
Leavenworth County commissioners are meeting this morning to determine what projects they want to finance -- if voters in the April 5 general election OK the sales tax for another 10-year term.
According to Dean Oroke, county commissioner from Tonganoxie, the commission met Tuesday with turnpike officials, who said they would require the county to build a highway between U.S. Highway 24-40 and Kansas Highway 32 to link into the proposed interchange. And Oroke said there's support on the three-member county commission for construction of such a road -- whether it's along the existing County Road 1 alignment or along another route.
In 1999, a study showed that an interchange along the turnpike would prove economically feasible for the KTA.
"It appeared feasible then, and they're also sure it would be feasible today," Oroke said after Tuesday's meeting. "They want to recoup their expenses (from building the interchange) in a reasonable amount of time."
The turnpike's only income is through fees charged to those drivers who use the road.
"They would want a commitment on behalf of the county that we would build a modern highway to that site, possibly on County Road 1," Oroke said.
The route, if County Road 1 is used, would be 5.8 miles, Oroke said. He said a total of 22 homes and five outbuildings currently are on that stretch of the county road.
"You wouldn't have to displace all of those," he said.
Although the cost of a new road is not clear, Oroke said he believes the county could finance it with proceeds from the sales tax, and by perhaps reallocating funds earmarked for other road projects.
If voters approve the sales tax extension, he said, the county would begin receiving revenue in 2007. The county-only revenue for 2004 from the existing one-cent sales tax, which is set to expire in 2006, was more than $2.3 million. Cities also benefit from the tax, which was initiated to finance construction of the Justice Center.
County commissioners also are looking at additional uses for tax revenue: Helping volunteer fire departments upgrade communication systems; capital outlay projects; and property tax relief.