OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — State and city leaders broke ground Thursday on a much anticipated change in Overland Park.

Overland Park approved a plan to add toll lanes to U.S. 69 Highway in 2021. Road crews will spend the next two years building express lanes along the highway from 103rd Street to 151st Street.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said 69 Highway is the busiest highway in the state, making congestion a problem. Traffic can backup for miles during rush hour.

“We just brought Panasonic into Johnson County. The growth going west is going to be beyond what people can imagine right now,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday.

Overland Park wanted to add a third lane along the highway, but the state of Kansas didn’t have the $572 million needed to pay for the project.

City and state leaders decided a toll lane in each direction would be the next best option.

“This highway is a huge innovation for the state of Kansas because its looking at a new way to add capacity to our system,” acting KDOT Secretary Calvin Reed said.

The two new express lanes along 69 Highway are the only ones that drivers will have to pay to use. Drivers who choose to use the lanes will have to pay $0.35 to $1.75 per trip, depending on the time of day.

The rest of the highway will remain as it is now for drivers who do not want to pay for the faster commute.

“If you don’t want to pay the tolls, you don’t have to pay the toll,” Kelly said. “You can still get to where you want to go. That was part of the thinking behind this. This will allow people to make that choice.”

Drivers will not stop to pay the toll. Instead cameras will scan K-Tags, or license plates, and bill drivers for the trips.

Money collected from the tolls will be used to pay back the money used to build the toll lanes and then maintain them.

“69Express will ensure that commuters can travel quickly and safely to their destinations and move freight efficiently throughout the state, further cementing Kansas as critical to interstate commerce,” Kelly said.

“This is a smart investment for our state, and I’m so glad we’re finally moving dirt and getting this done.”

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (R-Kan.) agreed with Kelly.

“This is a great example of how the bipartisan infrastructure law is creating jobs and building safer, stronger, and smarter roadways across Kansas,” Davids said.

“I’m proud to have voted to bring federal funding to this project and will continue partnering with state and local officials to ensure this project is a success for our community.”

The toll lanes are expected to open in 2025.