Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Talks continue on best route to link with turnpike

September 14, 2005

Altering terrain and moving utilities on Leavenworth County Road 1 would drive up the costs of a link between U.S. Highway 24-40 and a proposed turnpike interchange.

According to a study by HNTB, the cost of improving the county road between Tonganoxie and the interchange would cost twice the amount of building a new road.

For the past several weeks, Tonganoxie officials have talked extensively with county officials about the project.

City officials favor upgrading County Road 1 and using it as a connector between 24-40 south of town and the proposed interchange. Meanwhile, county officials -- although they have taken no public vote -- appear to be leaning toward construction of a new, cross-country route to link 24-40 and the turnpike.

One major owner

While the costs of upgrading County Road 1 would be substantially higher, the county would not have to spend much time on land acquisition. That's because much of the land on the east side of the county road is controlled by Tailgate Ranch. Paul and Elizabeth McKie, who own the ranch, said they favor the County Road 1 route -- rather than the cross-country road. The McKies recently have talked about development of at least part of the ranch.

At a meeting last week of interested parties, Lynn McClure of Leavenworth Area Development pointed out that even if the cost of improving County Road 1 is higher than building a new road, there are advantages.

"I think all of us understand that the costs can be offset," he said, pointing to expansion of the county's tax base if development occurs along the road.

A broader issue

And Bruce Peshoff of Planning Works, which the McKies are contracting with to explore land-use options for the ranch, encouraged county officials to look at the large picture. He urged them to consider what the region will look like in the future -- and to build a road to accommodate that vision.

"I think this is a much broader issue," he said. ''... We see this as a regional opportunity."

And county officials agreed.

"Tonganoxie is committed to not the cheapest -- we want the best," said Velda Roberts, city council president.

County commissioner Don Navinsky, a vocal proponent of a cross-country route, said he doesn't believe the connecting road should follow County Road 1.

"I can foresee that being a Metcalf," he said, referring to a busy Overland Park road. "That's my fear."

Fellow commissioner Dean Oroke said he had hoped the county could construct the connecting road between 24-40 and the turnpike -- and later upgrade County Road 1 south of the turnpike.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority, however, rejected Oroke's idea of two phases for the road improvements.

"Those semis will tear that road to pieces," said KTA's Tom Wurdeman.

Several meetings will occur before county commissioners decide which path the connector road will follow. Oroke said he was hopeful the commission could make a decision by Nov. 1.

In the meantime -- at 1 p.m. Thursday in council chambers -- the council will meet with Planning Works, the consulting firm hired by Tailgate Ranch to discuss land-use plans on the property, which encompasses more than 2,000 acres south of Tonganoxie.

The council also will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Leavenworth Area Development offices in Leavenworth. LAD officials will discuss the two options linking U.S. Highway 24-40 to the turnpike and the economic impact of those two routes. The LAD meeting will be a special meeting of LAD's infrastructure committee.

Economic development

McClure said this week that many LAD committee members could not attend last week's county commission meeting and that the LAD meeting would provide some concrete information given at the commission meeting.

"We've been talking about cost and location of the road and not too much about growth potential, not only along the corridor, but for the future of the county," McClure said.

Because two or more city council members plan to attend the meetings, the city council on Monday called special meetings for the two meetings.

The council plans to have its own work session to further discuss the turnpike interchange, but will wait until after the other two meetings to schedule its own session.

-- Shawn Linenberger, who contributed to this story, can be reached at slinenberger@theworldco.info

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