Our view: Turnpike interchange important for county
A regional transportation summit last week in Lawrence underscored the importance of Leavenworth County's need to become more of a player in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
That area -- which for all practical purposes includes that portion of northeast Kansas stretching from Kansas City to Lawrence -- is growing at a remarkable clip. And it is important that Leavenworth County not be left in the dust.
Leavenworth County commissioners currently are negotiating with the Kansas Turnpike Authority to construct a turnpike interchange in the southern portion of the county. That interchange would provide access to the turnpike for county residents. It also would prove attractive to new businesses, which would broaden the county's tax base and provide additional jobs to county residents.
Since the widening of U.S. Highway 24-40 between Kansas Highway 7 and Tonganoxie several years ago, this portion of the county has seen growth. And it would be impossible to stem that tide.
Now, county officials are taking a proactive role in providing further transportation opportunities to residents and businesses in the southern portion of Leavenworth County. And they should be commended for moving forward with a turnpike interchange.
The turnpike interchange would put Leavenworth County on more of a level playing field with its neighbors in Wyandotte, Johnson and Douglas counties, all of which have multiple interchanges on interstate highways.
A turnpike interchange would make Leavenworth County, and particularly Tonganoxie, more attractive to both businesses and new residents.
And while new development is considered a negative by some, the development train is coming -- and it makes sense that county officials should be in the driver's seat and not wake up 15 years from now after they've been flattened by a run-away development train.
The county has the unique opportunity to make decisions for itself, rather than being in the undesirable position of having to react to decisions made by other counties or cities in the metro area.
County commissioners should continue to work with the city of Tonganoxie -- and the owners of the 2,000-acre Tailgate Ranch south of Tonganoxie -- on creative ways to finance improvements to County Road 1 between Kansas Highway 32 and the city so that turnpike officials approve the new interchange.
Construction of a turnpike interchange would ensure Leavenworth County's role as a player in the metro -- and allow the county to make its own decisions about its future.