With a snip of scissors, officials on Tuesday cut a green ribbon marking the substantial completion of the second phase of the Johnson County Gateway project at the heavily traveled Interstate 435/Interstate 35/Kansas 10 interchange.
While the project isn’t expected to fully open until early next week, local, state and federal officials got a jump on the celebration of the end of the $288 million project.
“Its benefit to Kansas, this project, is absolutely enormous,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “More than 230,000 people a day travel this stretch of highway. The completion of this means that their daily commutes will be faster and will be safer.”
The Kansas Department of Transportation held the ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lenexa.
The project has been under construction for 2 1/2 years and at times has been the bane of drivers as they dealt with orange barrels, lane and bridge closures and changing traffic patterns on their daily commutes.
The project is the largest highway project ever constructed in Kansas and included the addition of 56 new highway lane miles and more than 27 new and rehabbed bridges. Plans call for future phases, but those have not been funded yet.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said that as someone who lives in Johnson County, he has to drive on the roads every day.
“Believe me, this is a big difference,” Colyer said.
While a member of the Kansas Senate, Colyer said it was great to see the beginnings of the project. As lieutenant governor, he said, it’s wonderful to see it completed ahead of schedule.
“But then as a person who drives this route every day, I can’t wait until the last orange barrels are gone,” he said.
There is so much to like about this project and it should be held up as a model for what needs to be done around the country, said David Kim, deputy administrator with the Federal Highway Administration.
“It’s going to bring people together, bring industries together and provide opportunities for residents as well as business alike to interact and come together,” he said. “That’s what transportation projects are all about — to bring a community together. That’s exactly what this project is going to do.”
The completion of the project will bolster the local, state and regional economies and improve mobility and safety.
“Our interstate highway system is no longer shiny and brand new,” Kim said.“We are middle-aged and not performing how we used to. But thankfully, thanks to this project, you are stepping up to the plate.”