Study: Interchange likely would spur more development

Opponents question what interchange also would bring

October 25, 2006

A recent study of several highway interchanges is good news, several city officials said.

The study by Richard Caplan and Associates of Prairie Village examined five fairly new interchanges constructed in Midwestern towns. Caplan, who presented his findings to Tonganoxie City Council members Monday night, said he tried to find situations comparable to Tonganoxie's.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority has proposed building an interchange on Leavenworth County Road 1, about three miles south of Tonganoxie.

The city commissioned the study, along with Leavenworth County Development Corp., to measure the economic development affects a new interchange could have.

City Administrator Mike Yanez was pleased by the results.

"It does present a very positive picture, that even from conservative estimates that Tonganoxie and the region certainly have a lot to gain in future economic development spurred by a new interchange," Yanez said.

As the city council debates whether to commit funds to upgrading County Road 1, the Caplan study could help tip the scales, Yanez said. And it might have an impact on local residents who might go to the polls in a few months to determine whether the city should be allowed to commit any funds to the road project.

The six-mile road project is estimated -- in 2009 dollars -- to cost $14.54 million, officials have said.

"I think one of the reasons for the impact study was to see if we could obtain information that would show citizens that any investment in city funds would come back, magnified numerous times over," Yanez said. "I think the report showed that any money invested by the county or the city would certainly provide innumerable benefits in the future that would allow the city and county to recover their investments."

The study centered on interchanges in five growing areas: Bel Aire, near Wichita; the so-called Lecompton interchange near northwest Lawrence; Parker, Colo., southeast of Denver; Edmond, Okla., north of downtown Oklahoma City; and Brighton, Colo., northeast of Denver.

Monday night, Caplan said that each interchange resulted in economic growth -- some more pronounced than others.

All of the areas studied were seeing rapid growth before the interchanges were built, and in most cases that continued.

Assessed property valuations began to rise in the areas of the interchanges before they were constructed, and retail sales increased in the areas.

Other effects

Several area residents who spoke at the meeting said they were concerned about the effects additional traffic would have on safety in the city -- and the effects additional people would have on city infrastructure.

Phyllis Shilling, Tonganoxie, asked about how these communities handled the need for additional water and sewer capacity, as well as fire protection.

"There has, obviously, been investments that every municipality has made to accommodate growth," Caplan said. "Because that growth is accelerated, it means every municipality has probably accelerated their improvements."

And Lloyd Hale, who lives in the county, said he lived on the north side of Lawrence until he moved to the area three years ago.

"If this occurs, I will move again," he said.

He questioned the true economic development impact on the communities -- because those cities had to handle increased infrastructure costs.

Bill not due now

Yanez said that if the city decides to commit funds to the County Road 1 project, the city won't have to provide the money until 2009.

"That still gives us two years to work on outside funding sources," he said. "Even if we agreed next week to do it, we're not writing any check for two or three years."

Bill New, chairman of the board of First State Bank and Trust, attended Monday night's presentation.

"It certainly shows how that development could contribute to the economic base of Tonganoxie and the county," he said. "In that respect, it's good news. I would assume it's not good news to the opponents. ... I have attempted to stay neutral on the thing, as far as becoming involved because I understand how those people feel in the area. But I've always worked countywide for economic development. The fact of the matter is that economic development follows highways."

New said he believes any development resulting from a turnpike interchange must be managed carefully.

And city council member Jason Ward said the study will be useful, as the city nears a decision on spending money on the county road upgrade. While the city has not committed any funds -- and has not settled on a specific amount -- Mayor Dave Taylor said he anticipated it being closer to $1 million, rather than the $2.8 million that the council once discussed.

"I think it (the study) is a very important part of our decision-making process," Ward said. "It's information we have to know in order to make an educated decision about what the value of this project is to the city and what we expect our return on our investment could be."

Originally published at: