Discussion of highway loop connecting Tonganoxie to Gardner being considered
Olathe — Policymakers have been considering the need for a loop highway on the outskirts of suburban Johnson County in part to deal with the swelling population in the county’s rural areas.
An outer loop is being examined as part of a state study on changing transportation demands in Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, Douglas and Leavenworth counties in eastern Kansas. The study is expected to be finished next year, The Kansas City Star reported.
Last week, Gov. Sam Brownback said he’s among those who’d like to see more serious discussion of such a roadway. He said a loop that would run from Interstate 70 near Tonganoxie south to Gardner and then east toward Missouri would help deal with the growing population and a BNSF shipping hub that’s under construction in Edgerton.
Tonganoxie Mayor Jason Ward said that when he and other local officials visited politicians in Washington, D.C., a few years ago to seek support for County Road 1 improvements for a Leavenworth County Turnpike interchange, there was talk of the outer loop. Ward said he thought such a road would benefit Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County economically. The turnpike interchange, Leavenworth County’s first that’s situated a few miles south of Tonganoxie on a renovated CR 1, opened nearly three years ago.
“We discussed how at some point that could be a conduit to connect Johnson County to Douglas County and Leavenworth County,” Ward said. “I think it would be great. I hope we can find a way to do it.”
But any plans for a new loop are only in the discussion phase. Money from the state’s transportation budget already has been allocated for major projects, and it generally takes several years to plan such a highway.
“We’re talking 20, 30, 40 years down the road,” Johnson County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert said. “It’s a concept rather than a firm proposal.”
The county has urged state officials to consider the outer loop as a “freeway,” which could cost more than $2 billion to build. But the county also has suggested the state could make it a toll road, which could be a hurdle because Kansas requires any new toll road to pay for itself.
There have been two previous failed tries to build a similar highway. In 1995, the county killed plans for a 36-mile loop, and then about five years ago, the county considered and then set aside the idea of building a parkway connecting Cass County in neighboring Missouri with Johnson County in Kansas.
— Mirror news editor Shawn Linenberger contributed to this story.