Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

KTA continues push for interchange

January 31, 2007

The Kansas Turnpike Authority has reaffirmed its commitment to construct an interchange at Interstate 70 and County Road 1 south of Tonganoxie.

Michael Johnston, the KTA's president and CEO, said the authority's board met last week to review the project and came to the same conclusion it had earlier: It wants to go through with the interchange in a joint project with Leavenworth County.

"The short story is the board authorized me to take the necessary steps to continue the project," Johnston said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

He said the board placed one condition on its action: It wants the Leavenworth County Commission to reaffirm its commitment to the project, including the upgrading of the County Road 1 approach to the proposed interchange.

Thus far, funding for improving the six miles of County Road 1 from just south of Tonganoxie to Kansas Highway 32 is not in place. The county has committed $8 million in sales tax revenues, while the Kansas Turnpike Authority has said it kick in $2 million of the cost in addition to the $8.5 million it will pay to construct the interchange.

Commissioners are likely to take up the issue in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Dean Oroke is firmly behind the project and will lobby for federal funding for County Road 1 upgrades next week in Washington, D.C. An estimate he unveiled earlier this year put the total cost of improving County Road 1 at $12.96 million. Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said he continued to support the project but wanted to get together in public session with his fellow commissioners to discuss it. Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he wanted to wait until the board met in public session to discuss the matter.

Officials with the city of Tonganoxie have offered to spend $1 million in city sales tax revenue -- at a rate of $100,000 a year for 10 years -- but that hasn't been finalized in writing.

Also at last week's KTA meeting, board members gave county officials the go-ahead to seek federal funds for the project.

Johnston said the KTA normally doesn't accept or use federal funds for its projects, but the board didn't want to stand in the way of a potential funding source for the county regarding County Road 1.

The move, Oroke said, should help open more doors on the trip to Washington.

He and planning director Chris Dunn are going Feb. 9 with a group of volunteers from Leavenworth County Development Corp. to lobby Kansas and Missouri lawmakers for federal funds for projects impacting the county, including the County Road 1 improvements.

"Now federal funding won't be a problem," he said.

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