OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -- If you drive on 69 Highway through Overland Park, listen up. On Thursday, the mayor laid out a plan to improve congestion on the roadway with express toll lanes.
The city has already asked the Kansas Department of Transportation to start a feasibility study on the toll lanes. KDOT is totally on board with the idea because they say 69 Highway is the most congested 4-way highway in the state of Kansas. However, they won’t have any funds to do anything about it for at least two and a half years unless they find another source of revenue.
Mayor Carl Gerlach’s State of the City speech made his number one concern clear.
“U.S. 69 is the most traveled four-lane highway in Kansas, including I-70 and I-35,” he said.
He’s asking Overland Park to get on board with the idea of express toll lanes, which can be seen in cities such as Denver and Austin.
69 Highway from 103rd Street to 151st would get an additional lane in each direction, but to travel in the new lane you’d have to pay.
There would be no toll booths like at the Kansas Turnpike, just K-Tag and license plate readers. The price would fluctuate throughout the day based on congestion.
“It’s about having a choice as to whether you want to get into this third lane that should be relatively free flow,” said KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz.
Lorenz came to support the idea because of all the money it would produce. She explained how the state has a two-and-a-half-year backlog of projects in rural communities and no way to come up with the $300 million it would take to fix the congestion on 69 now.
“It gets a grade of an F today,” she said. “It gets worse in the future if we don’t do something about it.”
A preliminary study should be complete by March. Another study comes after that, which should take a year to 18 months.
Mayor Gerlach is confident the studies will show the plan to be beneficial.
“We have an education process to go through,” the mayor said. “Will go to the chamber, will work with the state, and will educate everybody. And then, the city will have a vote on it, yes.”
Tolls are a divisive topic of course and this one could go in quick because the state wants to get the project done with what they call “alternative delivery,” which basically means they don’t have to go through the lengthy design, bid, and build process most projects do. That would need approval from the state legislature.