A proposed four-lane expansion of 119th Street in north Olathe has run into some traffic.
Transportation staff on Tuesday presented plans to the City Council to extend 119th Street from its current intersection with Woodland Road east to Nelson Road. The extension would be a divided arterial road and would require a bridge crossing over Mill Creek and the BNSF railroad.
Celia Duran, deputy public works director, recommended conducting preliminary engineering for the project at a cost of up to $500,000. That study would determine the exact route, potential scope of the project and a more certain price tag. Duran said the current estimate for the extension is around $20 million.
That figure caught the council members by surprise, and they suggested pumping the brakes.
“What are we giving up and what are we not doing if we put up this kind of money here?” Councilman Larry Campbell said. “Not that it’s not worthy or a good project, it’s just something is going to have to be put aside for this one, and I would like to see a little more study before we go half a million.”
Duran said the project was identified as a priority in the city’s 2016 transportation master plan, because it would provide another needed route for drivers trying to travel east or west in the city and would remove congestion on the existing east-west route of Harold Street. She added that the project has received praise from the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.
“They were really excited about this project,” she said. “They felt that this would be a big economic booster to have a direct connection from (Kansas) 7 to (Interstate) 35.”
However, Councilwoman Marge Vogt said she would need to see more specifics on how much the project would help commercial interests before signing off on it. She noted that the city is facing a number of must-do transportation projects, such as upgrades to the I-35/119th Street exit that will likely cost eight figures as well.
“As I look at these projects, and the limited funding that we have, I think we have to look carefully at what impact they will have, not only on the movement of traffic, but in terms of return on investment,” Vogt said.
Duran said she would bring the information back and discuss the project more at a future meeting.
In other business, the council voted to adopt the Envision Olathe Downtown Plan, an update of a 2003 document used to help guide commercial and residential redevelopment in downtown Olathe.
The new plan, developed over the course of a year through a series of public workshops, offers a number of ideas and tools to encourage more private investment, attract new customers and visitors, highlight the area’s history, strengthen existing neighborhoods, and make the area more vibrant and attractive beyond regular business hours.
Parks officials also told the council that the Olathe Public Art Committee has chosen Berkeley, Calif.-based artist Po Shu Wang to provide a piece of public art to be installed as part of the ongoing renovation of Lake Olathe.
Committee members chose Wang among three finalists out of a field of 76 artist proposals. Wang’s work, called “A Single Drop,” resembles a giant tuning fork, and visitors can make the sculpture vibrate at a certain tonal frequency. Visitors are then invited to find six “droplet” sculptures spread around the park that each generate a tone related to that of the main sculpture.
The artwork will cost $150,000, part of the city’s new policy that all new public or private development dedicated 1 percent of its total cost to public art. The council is scheduled to vote to accept the committee’s choice of Wang’s sculpture at its April 17 meeting.
David Twiddy: firstname.lastname@example.org