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Archive for Thursday, May 6, 2004

County, KTA agree to land sale; deal seals turnpike widening plans

May 6, 2004

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The Kansas Turnpike Authority is about to pick up the last piece of property needed to make way for a $100 million widening of the turnpike between Topeka and Lecompton.

Douglas County is selling the 1.23-acre sliver of extraneous property for $5,375.

"We certainly don't want to stand in their way," said Keith Browning, county engineer and director of public works.

The construction project, which will widen the turnpike to six lanes from the Lecompton interchange to Topeka, is expected to begin about a year from now, said Tom Wurdeman, the authority's chief engineer.

Final plans are being completed for the 14-mile project, which will add a single lane to each side of the turnpike. The last piece of property needed to accommodate the widening is owned by the county, along the north side of the turnpike just east of County Road 1029.

The sale is expected to close May 17.

The county bought the land a year ago for $4,300, part of a larger purchase from A.K. Winter to make room for another road project: a $1.8 million overhaul of County Road 1029, from the Farmer's Turnpike to Lecompton.

The county won't miss the 1.23-acre parcel, Browning said, because it wouldn't serve much purpose otherwise. The county ended up being forced to buy the property because it would have been cut off from Winter's home site.

Now that the turnpike authority needs the land, Browning said, the decision to sell is easy.

"Our main concern is that we want to cover our costs," Browning said. "We just bought this land last year, and we want to get that (expense) back. We want to recoup those costs."

The $5,375 sale price reflects a 25 percent premium on the $4,300 the county paid a year ago.

Turnpike officials have agreed to the negotiated compensation, and Wurdeman said it was well worth the price.

"We own all the property except for this little piece," Wurdeman said. "We didn't take any more than we absolutely had to."

This summer, Wurdeman said, crews will begin relocating utility lines and putting up fences along the construction route.

During construction, crews will work to keep two lanes of traffic open in each direction throughout the project, Wurdeman said.

"Obviously there will be some short terms when we have to shut it down to one lane each way, but that will be short-term -- an hour or two," he said.

The stretch of turnpike averages 34,000 vehicles a day, up almost 16 percent from 28,600 five years ago.

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