SLT tolls

There doesn’t seem to be a practical way to collect tolls on the South Lawrence Trafficway without putting too great a load on local motorists.

October 19, 2011


Local officials were elated by last summer’s announcement that the Kansas Department of Transportation had committed $192 million for the completion of the SLT. However, the idea that KDOT might fund part of the trafficway construction costs by charging a toll on the road got a less enthusiastic response.

KDOT Secretary Deb Miller said her department would study the toll issue with the goal of charging motorists who use the road to bypass Lawrence while allowing local traffic to use the road for free. That’s a good goal, but it will be next to impossible to achieve.

KDOT is looking at a couple of toll scenarios. One is to have toll booths at both ends of the completed SLT — Noria Road and the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. People would be charged a toll when they get on the road and a toll when they get off. If they exit the SLT anywhere in the middle, they would pay just one toll. Another idea is to have a toll booth just at the Lecompton interchange. That would mean motorists traveling west would pay the full toll regardless of how far they had traveled on the SLT, while motorists traveling east could access the road anywhere except the turnpike interchange and drive almost the entire route for free.

This is of particular concern to people who use the SLT primarily to access the Lecompton interchange, often from nearby U.S. 40/Sixth Street. Charging those people a toll would be akin to setting up a toll booth just north of Second Street and McDonald Drive and collecting a toll for those trying to access the West Lawrence turnpike interchange. It’s also of concern to people in Lecompton and other points north and west of Lawrence who use the SLT to access the Farmers Turnpike.

The tolls KDOT envisions — less than $1 — aren’t large but they can add up for regular users. There’s also the question of how much it will cost KDOT to build and operate one or more toll booths to collect those fees and how much that cost would eat into toll revenue.

KDOT officials have said toll money likely would be used to fund construction of an SLT interchange at Bob Billings Parkway. Delaying that interchange would be an acceptable trade-off for maintaining free access to the SLT. If that interchange is, indeed, the primary reason KDOT is considering tolls, the most fair way to collect that money would be to build the interchange and then collect tolls from people who get on and off the SLT at that point.

KDOT has hired an Olathe firm to conduct phone surveys to measure how high a toll residents in Douglas, Johnson and Shawnee counties would be willing to pay to use the SLT. It also will be an indication of how many drivers would use other routes that increase traffic in Lawrence rather than paying a toll to use the SLT. The survey and other communications from local officials and residents likely will be a key component in KDOT’s decision on tolling.

Completing the SLT will be a big benefit for Lawrence residents, but it also is a key piece of the state’s transportation strategy for the busy traffic corridor between Topeka and Kansas City because it will give motorists easier access to the Kansas Turnpike to the west, U.S. 59 to the south and K-10 to the east of Lawrence. Lawrence drivers will use the SLT, but they shouldn’t bear a disproportionate share of funding the road as they almost certainly would if tolls are implemented.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Users should pay for a road design that was obsolete the day it was presented. The only time 23rd is a real hassle is during rush hours just like anywhere else in the USA. Rush hour madness is here to stay. More roads and more lanes has not eliminated rush hour madness from KCMO metro nor rush hour auto wrecks.

The SLT is nothing more than pork barrel spending for the real estate industry and will do nothing to relieve congestion. But it will likely attract a bunch more tailgating 18 wheelers won't that be exciting?

So what is wrong with users paying for a road that is not necessary?

William McCauley 6 years, 3 months ago

Merrill, if you were not driving your slow rear end in the left lane then you would have to worry about "tailgating 18 wheelers".... try moving over the right lane and stop pasting & copying while your driving!

average 6 years, 3 months ago

Whether it should be tolled or not? Point for debate.

As for how to do it, though? A very, very simple solution. Make tolls to/from exit 197 cost $.50 more than the normal (mileage-based) formula. Use that extra revenue to have the KTA assume the SLT. Zero new booths needed. Totally fair? No, but what in life is?

MarcoPogo 6 years, 3 months ago

"Stratego" - everybody gets the same number of bombs and miners. You just have to not set them up like a moron.

optimist 6 years, 3 months ago

While not everyone uses K-tag most of us do and if you don't and want to use the SLT you'll have to splurge and buy one, it's a one-time fee. Set up K-tag and cash lanes at both ends of the SLT without an attendant like we have at the Tonganoxie/Eudora exit on I-70. Because tolls are to be less than $1 one of the devices that allow you to throw change in seems appropriate. Determine who qualifies for free travel on the SLT based on their K-tag billing address. Those K-tag holders that qualify for free tolls can just be billed at a cost of $0 each time they go through the toll booths while others that aren't qualified will be billed the full rate.

The other option would be to not charge a toll at all. I think most of us just want it built...

average 6 years, 3 months ago

As I suggested above, there's no need for any additional booth at the Northwest end at all. That traffic is going onto the turnpike anyway. The people that affects most negatively would be the Lecompton folks getting on the 'pike who aren't taking the SLT but would be caught up in the extra toll. Maybe the KTA could also take over maintenance on the 'Farmers'?

There is some precedent for a special rate for K-Tag people. Currently, if you get on/off at Bonner with a K-Tag, you get a cheaper rate than if you don't, even though the toll booth is west of there now. A similar set of K-tag readers on a gantry could give discounts to people who only use it from 6th or from the Farmer's Turnpike side.

Pete_Schweti 6 years, 3 months ago

Are we seriously entertaining the idea of charging for a road to drive across a town of 80K people? This is insane.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Paying $300 million for that obsolete design is equally insane.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Only the users should pay for this road.... nobody else wants it.

gccs14r 6 years, 3 months ago

If they put a toll on it, expect the trucks to stay off of it.

I'd much prefer that rare transportation dollars be spent on commuter rail. Getting the 12k folks who commute to KC each day out of their cars would relieve a lot of congestion.

Mike Ford 6 years, 3 months ago

let's see....the thieves are admitting that this road is way beyond their cost estimate... nooooo.....they didn't artificially inflate the south of the river route in the first place to get to this road plan they can't afford....tell me....when did they tell the truth about the cost estimates? and if they did tell the truth why are they being taken to court? why did the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation fund a side by side comparison ghost study analysis to prove the 32nd street proponents were fibbing to put it mildly...this is the best non mea culpa mea culpa I've seen yet.... and better yet the know nothings supporting this potential toll road are willing and happy to be snowed again. You know the finish line looks great.....too bad this finish line has a court case before it....and a bad economy to boot.....and again what is the legality of this proposal and if so we can sure trust that the Brownback administration and this kdot agency will be sooooooo transparent.....just trust them.... just trust them....

Commenting has been disabled for this item.