Wednesday, May 18, 2011
UPDATE: Sedgwick County Commissioners approved a measure that would pay for improvements in the Kellogg and I-235 interchange.
Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau voted against the project.
Wednesdays vote will send $11.6 million dollars in county funds to help pay for the project.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The interchange at Kellogg and I-235 handles more than 130,000 vehicles every day. From 2004-2008, there were 243 accidents with 79 injuries and one fatality there. The highway ramps there are 50 years old, obsolete and downright dangerous during heavy congestion.
The interchange is identified by the Kansas Department of Transportation as the number one priority on a list of projects that need to be completed. The 1950's-era clover leaf ramps would be torn out and replaced with much more modern ramps that would alleviate congestion.
However, there's one major problem. The City of Wichita is responsible for coming up with 10% of the cost of the total project in order for the state and feds to pick up the remainder of the cost of the $116-million project. The city says they can't afford it and have asked Sedgwick County to pick up the tab for the good of everyone.
"All we know is (that) it's the #1 priority for this area, but Wichita doesn't want to pay for it even though it should be their project," said Commissioner Richard Ranzau.
"I think it's basically that you're looking for the county to fund because you've got a $50-million commitment and the number one priority for this area is 235 and Kellogg," said Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.
Both Peterjohn and Ranzau expressed opposition to providing the funding, while Tim Norton, Dave Unruh, and Jim Skelton said they supported it.
Wichita leaders have committed to paying $50-million dollars to build a brand new exit at 13th and I-235, which would ease congestion along Zoo Blvd. But Ranzau and Peterjohn believe that project could be delayed if, in fact, Kellogg and I-235 is the top priority.
The discussion got so heated during the county staff meeting Tuesday, that Commissioner Tim Norton got up and walked out. He returned after a few minutes, still expressing his support.
"If that's the #1 project and it's one that's most visible, I would say most citizens understand and know that it's worn out its usefulness and it's engineering design," Norton said.
The $11.6-million that the commissioners are being asked to pay represents the county's entire yearly sales tax budget that it would spend on all roads and bridges in the entire county. County Manager Bill Buchanan said it could be paid for using sales tax, bonds, funds earmarked for other capital improvement projects, or combinations of the three.