Leaders considering turning busy US 69 Highway in Overland Park into tollway

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- You could soon have to pay if you use Johnson County's busiest highway.

City leaders in Overland Park are looking for ways to curb traffic backups on U.S. 69 Highway, and one proposal includes charging tolls to drivers along one 7-mile stretch of the thoroughfare.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority said 80,000 vehicles travel that stretch of road each day. City engineers in Overland Park, and the KTA, are in the early stages of studying that corridor, which leads from 103rd Street to 179th Street.

OP's City Engineer, Lorraine Basalo, said the city hopes to expand the four-lane highway to six lanes. Basalo said the project could cost $250 million, and one means of paying for it would be turning that stretch into a toll road. She emphasized it's one of several plans being considered.

"We are also aware it's approaching the end of its useful life," Basalo said. "It's an important time for that corridor to be improved."

Basalo said Overland Park engineers are aware that travel times are growing longer and, by the year 2040, they could triple. She adds that the city applied for federal funding for the analysis, but that request didn't work out.

"Looking at the possibility of tolling is just one more effort to see if that would be feasible and whether it should be looked into any further as part of the improvements," Basalo said.

Overland Park drivers FOX4 spoke with agree it's time to do something, but charging tolls on their neighborhood highway isn't the way to go.

"It's pretty crowded. It's really backed up all the way," one driver said.

"I'd probably try to avoid it. It's really a necessity, living a block away from it," another motorist commented.

Basalo said that initial study will be completed by year's end. Then, city leaders should know whether or not to widen the highway and how to pay for it all.

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