Building express toll lanes on U.S. Highway 69 will result in a lot of temporary closures and detours on the many trails and bike lanes near the highway, officials said Wednesday night.
At the same time, residents along the route in south Overland Park may get some relief from the constant traffic noise if enough of them agree to the addition of noise barriers.
In a virtual meeting Wednesday, officials with the Kansas Department of Transportation provided an update on the next steps for the express toll lane construction, which is expected to begin in mid-2022, with the lanes open to traffic in 2025.
The presentation dealt mostly with studies of the environmental and noise impact the new lanes will bring. At the meeting’s peak attendance time, about 90 people were tuning in.
Impacts on bike and pedestrian trails
Numerous bike and pedestrian trails that cross or run alongside the highway south of 103rd Street would be affected by the project, KDOT officials said.
For the most part, those interruptions would involve temporary closures on limited sections, said Brandon Yarbrough, task leader on the project.
The list of trails affected is lengthy:
- Corporate Woods Trail,
- Indian Creek Bike and Hike Trail,
- Indian Valley Park,
- the Grant Street bike lane,
- U.S. 69 Trail,
- Brandon Place Linkages,
- Tomahawk Creek Trail,
- Nottingham South Park,
- 143rd and 151st Street trails,
- Kingston Lake Park
- and Lowell Avenue Trail.
KDOT considers the impact to be “de minimus” in federal regulatory terms, because of the temporary and limited nature of the interruptions.
But the Federal Highway Administration keeps an eye on public park and wildlife refuges as well as historical sites before approving use by highway departments. Public comments received during a 30-day comment period are part of the process.
On the other hand, construction may eventually help residents living along the route who have long complained of highway noise, said Cameron McGown, project manager.
Recent field studies validate those complaints, and KDOT has identified 11 stretches along the road in the first phase of construction that could get noise-reducing wall.
The first phase includes the highway from about 103rd Street to 151st Street. Large stretches that abut single family homes and apartments could get the barriers.
Before that happens, though, KDOT will hold a series of neighborhood meetings in January with the people directly affected. A vote will be taken, and if at least 70% of the people directly affected approve, the barriers will be included in the project.
Adding sound barriers would increase the total cost of the $330 million toll lanes project by an estimated $30 million, officials said.
However, that money would come from the state highway fund and not from tolls, as per state law.
The city of Overland Park has also approved contributing $30 million to the total cost of the project.
What happens next
Since the design has not yet been drawn, it’s still too early to know the finer details of the trail interruptions or sound barrier design. But McGown said the walls would probably be of similar design to some existing ones on Interstate 435 or other places on U.S. 69.
During a question-and-answer session on Wednesday, residents learned that the use of engine brakes or “jake brakes” by semis is against the law in Overland Park. However, one questioner said there are no signs along the road to alert drivers to that fact. KDOT representatives said they would speak with the city about that.
More detail on the trail areas affected can be found here.
Meanwhile, KDOT is still taking public input here.