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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Kansas Department of Transportation is looking for ways to improve safety by breaking up traffic congestion along 69 Highway in Johnson County. 

On Monday, June 21, the Overland Park City Council will vote on entering into an agreement with the KDOT to advance the 69 Express project.

Lindsey Douglas, deputy secretary for KDOT, said if approved the project would create the first single lane toll road in Kansas.

The project would widen the roadway to add an extra lane of traffic along U.S. Highway 69 between 103rd and 179th streets. Once complete the new, far-left lane would become an express toll lane, and the original right two lanes would remain open for drivers to use, free of charge.

“In Kansas, this would be the very first single lane type of tolling done,” Douglas said. “There are 60 other locations around the country that have used express toll lanes as a way of managing congestion on these corridors that are outgrowing the project limits.” 

If approved, the toll lanes would be separated from the free lanes by a buffer and a striped line

“Everyone that uses the highway today can continue to use it just as they always have. This is adding another choice by adding an express toll lane. It allows people to make that choice when it’s most important to them,” Douglas said. 

The express lane project would be broken down into four phases and cost roughly $655 million to complete. The first phase would cost $300 million and cover construction from 103rd to 151st Street. The second phase would extend the project to 179th Street. 

The express lane project would also include renovations to bridges and crosswalks on the interchanges at Blue Valley Parkway and at I-435. 

KDOT is requesting the City of Overland Park contribute $20 million (roughly 7% of the total cost) before construction begins on the first phase of the project.

If the council enters an agreement with KDOT, the city will have the option to do a one up-front payment, make payments over time or collect toll revenue until the $20 million contribution is paid. 

Drivers can expect to pay roughly 32 cents per mile. Douglas said traffic demands will drive how the price is set, and the price may be less outside of peak travel times.

“I think the first fundamental difference between this and other toll facilities around the country is that we are setting the toll really just to manage congestion,” Douglas said.

Douglas said the express lane option would be roughly $85 million cheaper than traditional widening options.

“Instead of building the collector-distributor system, we would build auxiliary lanes for those areas,” Douglas said. “By keeping the traffic out of the two free right lanes, you don’t have to build out the collector distributor system in the express toll lane option.”

If the express project isn’t approved, KDOT will move forward with other methods for widening the roadway. Using traditional widening methods the city would have the option to make a $20 million up-front contribution or make $22 million in installment payments of $2.2 million over the next ten years.

Using traditional widening methods, construction would start 2025, with the new lane of traffic opening in 2027. 

If the council votes to make a seven percent contribution to the Expressway project, KDOT will advance the proposal to the Kansas Turnpike Authority Board (KTA) for approval. The proposed project would then progress to the state finance council for final approval. If the project receives approval, construction on the first phase will begin in 2022 with the corridor slated to open in 2025.