Council signals U.S. 24-40 safety improvements too expensive
In a meeting at which it considered two other possible future projects, the Tonganoxie City Council indicated the city could not afford safety upgrades to U.S. Highway 24-40 east-side intersections.
Up for discussion was a possible city application for Kansas Department of Transportation grant funding to make safety improvements on the highway the Laming Road intersection and those at intersections at Stone Creek and South Park drives. As presented by city engineer Brian Kingsley of BG Consultants, the project would improve safety at those intersections with the use of a grass median that would put an end to vehicles crossing two lanes of traffic to enter or exit the highway. Instead, that traffic would be funneled to Laming Road through Woodfield Drive to the north and a new frontage road on the south that would connect South Park Drive to a 450-foot extension of Laming Road.
To handle the added traffic, there would be a traffic signal installed at U.S. 24-40 and Laming Road and turn lanes added to the highway and Laming Road.
Assistant City Clerk Kathy Bard said the city received frequent complaints about the danger of turning onto the highway for Stone Creek and South Park drives.
Kingsley said the application would be in response to KDOT seeking projects for geometric improvement to established traffic corridors in the state, such as U.S. 24-40.
If the project were approved for funding, KDOT would pay up to 80 percent of the project’s estimated construction cost, Kingsley said. Or, in the words of City Administrator Mike Yanez, the city could leverage $2 million in badly needed safety improvements for an investment of $2,500.
He recommended the council approve $2,500 for Kingsley to prepare the application.
The city would be on the hook for additional cost, Kingsley conceded. The city alone would have to pay for utility relocation, right of way acquisition, preliminary engineering and construction engineering, he said. There was no way to estimate those costs without surveying, he said.
Although the council didn’t completely shut the door to making application for the project, it members did signal those cost coupled with the need to raise 20 percent of the project’s construction cost made it too expensive. The decision came on a night the council also considered financing the extension of infrastructure to the County Road 1 industrial park and a new police station.
“Where are we possibly going to pull any money out for something like this?” Councilman Bill Peak asked. “I look at this trying to be financed and look at the (city) debt level. The inside road — I love that idea. But the money — it boils down to bucks.”
Councilman Dennis Bixby agreed, saying the city had greater priorities, which the council had been working on longer. One of those was the industrial park.
“The industrial park scares me,” he said. “I know there is a gamble there, but I see a better chance of a reasonable return. “
Although the council chose not to move forward with the application Monday, it kept the door open to reconsider once it starts getting figures on revenue sources for the industrial park project and a police station purchase.
Kingsley said he could prepare an application in October for the Nov. 4 application deadline but that wouldn’t give the city time to respond to any criticism of the plan included in the application.