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Archive for Thursday, February 24, 2005

Interchange plan divisive issue in Tonganoxie

February 24, 2005

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For the past 35 years, Kelly Fowler has lived in Tonganoxie without easy access to Interstate 70. Now, with talk of a possible interchange coming to town, she couldn't be happier.

"It's long overdue," she said. "I've lived in rural Tonganoxie for part of my life, and I had to go to Bonner Springs to get on I-70 every day. It was a big pain, and so long as they can get it on somewhere, I'm in favor."

Possible locations for the proposed interchange exist between Reno in Leavenworth County and Leavenworth County Road 1 near the turnpike's Milepost 212, said Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke.

However, an interchange is only feasible if a 1 cent sales-tax question on the April 5 ballot is approved by Leavenworth County voters. That money, derived from extending a current sales tax slated to lapse at the end of 2006 if not renewed, would help finance construction of the interchange.

The sales tax was enacted in 1996 to help pay for the Leavenworth County Justice Center.

The three Leavenworth County Commissioners met with Kansas Turnpike Authority President and CEO Mike Johnston last month to discuss the possible interchange. Johnston said if the tax passed, then the KTA would move forward with a new feasibility study to determine whether an interchange would work.

In 1999, KTA completed a study, but Johnston said there were stumbling blocks to building the project.

"The county needed to improve roads to get to and from the turnpike," he said. "You can't build an interchange if you can't get off and use it."

Depending upon where the interchange would go, Leavenworth County would be responsible for the cost of repairing roads to and from the turnpike. KTA would fund the new study and help build the interchange, if the study showed the interchange was feasible.

"The county itself is not going to be paying for an interchange on the turnpike," Oroke said.

But some Tonganoxie residents oppose the interchange, saying they prefer to maintain the small town's charm.

Mindi Lux has lived in Tonganoxie more than 25 years.

"I don't want to see it happen," she said of the proposed interchange. "I've always liked Tonganoxie being small, and I already feel like the one thing I've loved about it was that it's a small little town and it's going to grow and expand. And that worries me because I like the small community."

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