KDOT official says upgrade to west leg of K-10 might have to be funded using tolls

photo by: Elvyn Jones

A motorist turns off Kansas Highway 10 at the Kasold Drive intersection during an afternoon rush hour on July 10, 2018. The section of K-10 west of U.S. Highway 59 to Wakarusa Drive has become the busiest section of the still two-lane K-10 west leg since the four-lane east leg opened in November 2016.

Depending on what state legislators allocate for highway funding next year, improvements to the west leg of Kansas Highway 10 might have to be funded using tolls, a Kansas Department of Transportation official told the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday.

KDOT project manager Aaron Frits raised the possibility of tolls while briefing commissioners on an ongoing environmental impact study, a necessary step toward upgrading the 19-mile west leg of K-10 from the U.S. Highway 59/Iowa Street interchange to North 1800 Road.

But the possibility of using tolls to fund the $250 million to $300 million project didn’t sit well with Commissioner Mike Gaughan.

“I need a rock-solid guarantee that if the Legislature passes a new highway plan, we won’t be talking about tolls on K-10,” Gaughan told Frits.

Frits said he couldn’t make any promises, because KDOT’s funding is largely in the hands of state lawmakers. The Kansas Legislature will consider a new state highway plan and its funding during its 2019 session, and Frits said KDOT and the Legislature will have to consider all possible funding sources when planning the improvements on what is the busiest stretch of two-lane highway in the state.

Gaughan said he understood that KDOT’s hands were tied. However, he said he was concerned by conversations, both within the state and nationally, about alternative ways to pay for highways. As vehicles become more fuel efficient and gas taxes produce less revenue for projects, Gaughan said, legislators might be more willing to opt for tolls on the K-10 west leg so that the next highway plan could fund more projects.

“I would hate to see them settle for tolls,” Gaughan said of the Legislature. “I don’t want to see Lawrence end up served by two toll roads.”

Frits said county residents would have ample opportunities to voice concerns about possible tolls and other issues involving the west leg expansion during the three-year environmental impact study. The first public forum on the west leg will be at 5 p.m. Nov. 14 at Southwest Middle School, 2511 Inverness Drive, he said.

Frits said residents could also email comments to him and other members of the project team at info@SLT-KS.org.

In other business, commissioners heard a report on the multiagency behavioral health crisis team at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The report draws on data collected by LMH, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, DCCCA and Heartland Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center, all of whom are members of the crisis team.

This is the first year for the team, which was created as part of the $1.9 million in behavioral health funding the County Commission approved as part of the 2018 budget.

LMH data analyst Ava Trahan said the team was making progress toward its goals, especially in the area of referring ER patients to outpatient treatment with LMH’s partner agencies. She said the number of referrals for outpatient treatment jumped from five in March to 52 in April, when the team began to assemble. Moreover, 46 percent of ER behavioral health patients in April, May and June met with the Heartland RADAC care coordinator and started outpatient treatment, Trahan said.


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