Overland Park officials exploring tolls among options for funding expansion of U.S. Highway 69

Among the funding possibilities Overland Park officials are looking into for a project to expand U.S. Highway 69 would be turning the road into a tollway. Photo credit Jo Naylor. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Overland Park officials are looking at every possibility when it comes to widening the perennially clogged U.S. Highway 69 – including making the road a toll way.

The city’s public works staff told the council’s public works committee Monday that it would work with the Kansas Turnpike Authority to find revenue-generating possibilities for the expansion the city has been pushing for over a year. Traffic slowdowns have reached the point that the road needs to grow from the current four lanes to six, city leaders have said.

In an update provided to the committee, staffers said one possibility for raising money could be “price-managed lanes,” or a toll road. There is not a proposal with any kind of detail in the works, said city Public Works Director Tony Hofmann. The city only wants to explore the possibility to see if it the corridor could generate enough revenue for the idea to be feasible. The analysis should be completed by the end of the year, he said.

Hofmann’s short update also included some disappointing news for council members. The city has lost out on two grants connected to the project.

In the first, a federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant, the city asked for $1.6 million for planning the project. None of the projects that won that grant ended up being for planning, he said.

The city also applied for cost sharing with the Kansas Department of Transportation and was denied that as well. The city had hoped to share the $34 million cost of road improvements on 167th Street from Antioch Road to Metcalf Avenue. City public works planners want to widen that stretch from two to four lanes, but it can’t be done without replacement of the overpass over U.S. 69. There were 100 applicants for that grant but Overland Park’s project was not one of the 22 that were approved.

“I wish we had better news on the (the two grants),” Hofmann said. “But… we’ll try to move it forward as best we can although it’s not technically our infrastructure.”

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was in Overland Park a year ago to tour the area’s transportation infrastructure, including a review of the congestion problems on U.S. Highway 69.