Commuters through Overland Park along U.S. 69 and Interstate 435 will see much needed improvements to the interchange linking the two thoroughfares.
By LUKE RANKER
Special to The Star
The Kansas Department of Transportation and Overland Park together with Clarkson Construction recently completed $102 million in improvements to the area around the interchange that includes new collector-distributor roads southbound along U.S. 69 between 103rd Street and 119th Street; along I-435 between Interstate 35 and U.S. 69; widening work on I-435 and interchange improvements at several intersections.
Most of the project has been completed for some time, but the ramps at 435 east to U.S. 69 north and 435 west to U.S. 69 south will open Friday.
A formal ribbon-cutting will be Friday morning at the southeast corner of the interchange at the Corporate Woods South Tower Suite 2001.
The new collector-distributor roads, which move traffic from U.S. 69 to I-435 and vice versa, are vital to keeping congestion down, department media spokeswoman Kim Qualls said. They allow cars traveling from I-435 to U.S. 69 or vice versa to exit sooner. That separates them from the slower moving vehicles exiting at Overland Park streets like College Boulevard.
Commuters driving south to Louisburg or north to downtown Kansas City will see the most improved traffic, Overland Park project manager Justin Nickel said.
“During the morning rush it might not make a lot of difference,” he said. “But in the afternoon it will help.”
The modifications cost about $102 million with Overland Park contributing $8 million and the rest divided between state and federal funding as part of the T-Works program, Qualls said.
This project is not directly related to the series of improvements to K-10, I-435 and I-35 known as the Johnson County Gateway project, Nickel said, but it will be connected to those modifications once they’re complete.
U.S. 69 is a major artery through Overland Park that the city and state identified for improvements about 10 years ago.
“U.S. 69 is sort of the backbone of Overland Park,” Nickel said.
In 2007 when studies on the interchange system began, Nickel said, about 105,000 cars traveled along U.S. 69 and 150,000 along I-435 per day. The state projected that by 2040 those numbers would rise 165,000 and 190,000 cars respectively.
Dubbed the “Red Project,” this is the third of seven planned improvements to the U.S. 69 system in Overland Park. The next step would widen U.S. 69 from two to three lanes in both directions between 103rd Street and 119th Street, Nickel sad. However there is currently no funding for that phase.
Like most major highway overhauls, the state predicts improvements will boost the surrounding economy. For the Red Project, KDOT shows over $700 million in economic development for the region.
Overland Park sees a lot of urban growth to the south, Nickel said. Improvements will help those wanting to build houses in the southern areas and work downtown or on the Country Club Plaza as they come home from work.
“For those who want to live in the affluent suburb that Overland Park is and travel up north for work, it’s important,” Nickel said.