Federal money from a $715 billion infrastructure bill approved by the U.S. House Thursday could make the project to expand U.S. Highway 69 in Overland Park richer, if the measure survives an eventual Senate conference.
The prospective $15 million injection —plus a state match — is targeted specifically at the 167th Street interchange.
The House vote came a week after the Overland Park City County voted to approve adding express toll lanes on U.S. 69 as the preferred way to deal with growing congestion on what has become Kansas’s busiest highway.
By a 10-2 vote, councilmembers opted for the toll lanes over a traditional, toll-free expansion.
Part of the reason was that the toll lanes would raise revenues that could allow the city to pay its $20 million share of construction costs.
How it would impact U.S. 69 project
The federal money approved Thursday wouldn’t change the city’s obligation, but it would allow construction to begin sooner on that part of the highway around 167th Street, said Lindsey Douglas, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The federal money would be matched by another $15 million from the state and would put that intersection into the first phase of construction, along with the new toll lanes from 103rd Street to 151st Street, she said.
If the federal money is not ultimately approved, the 167th Street interchange would be in a later phase.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, who represents Johnson County, said the highway has been a priority “since my predecessor’s predecessor.”
“Folks in our district disagree on plenty but not this. U.S. 69 must be addressed,” she said during brief remarks on the House floor Wednesday.
KDOT estimates some 80,000 vehicles a day traverse the corridor, bringing rush hour traffic regularly to speeds of 15 miles an hour and causing higher than normal crash rates.
The INVEST in America Act
Members of Congress spent much of Wednesday afternoon and evening debating H.R. 3684, known as the INVEST in America Act.
The $715 billion measure includes spending on a long list of highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects earmarked by members of Congress.
The bill is a reauthorization of infrastructure spending that happens every five years and is separate from the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan.
The House approved the INVEST in American Act Thursday by a vote of 221-201 with all but two Republicans voting against it.
KCATA money included but not Lenexa road projects
Also included in the bill is $10.5 million to buy electric buses with charging stations for KCATA. That would be shared among the cities in the regional transit system, said Josh Powers, Johnson County’s business liaison.
Powers said the number of new buses to be purchased will depend on the local match requirement, which has yet to be determined. But the vehicles would likely be smaller than full-sized electric buses, which go for around $1.1 million apiece when chargers are included.
The federal money may allow KCATA to buy as many as 10 to 15 electric buses, he said.
The additional buses would give transportation officials a chance to test how they perform in Midwestern weather and how they compare to compressed natural gas and other vehicles, he said.
Davids, vice chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, Mo., put in the electric bus request.
Davids had also asked for two other projects in Lenexa for improvements around the intersection of Interstates 435 and I-35, known as the Johnson County Gateway.
One was for $403 million for the confluence of those roads with K-10 and the other for $199 million for K-10 corridor expansion.
However, those projects did not end up in the bill discussed this week.
The Senate has already passed its own infrastructure bill. Now that the House bill is approved, the two versions will head for reconciliation.