OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – State and city leaders paved the way for a much-anticipated change in Overland Park on Thursday.
Overland Park has approved a plan to add toll lanes to US Highway 69 in 2021. Road crews will spend the next two years building express lanes along the highway from 103rd Street to 151st Street.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has said Highway 69 is the busiest highway in the state, making congestion a problem. Traffic can back up for miles during rush hour.
“We just brought Panasonic to Johnson County. Westward growth will be beyond what people can imagine right now,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said Thursday.
Overland Park wanted to add a third lane along the highway, but the state of Kansas didn’t have the $572 million needed to pay for the project.
City and state leaders agreed that a toll lane in each direction would be the next best option.
“This highway is a huge innovation for the state of Kansas as it is looking for a new way to add capacity to our system,” KDOT Acting Secretary Calvin Reed said.
The two new express lanes along Highway 69 are the only ones that drivers will have to pay to use. Drivers who choose to use the lanes will need to pay $0.35 to $1.75 per trip, depending on the time of day.
The rest of the highway will remain as it is now for drivers who don’t want to pay for the fastest way.
“If you don’t want to pay tolls, you don’t have to pay tolls,” Kelly said. “You can still get where you want. That was part of the thinking behind this one. This will allow people to make that choice.”
Motorists will not stop to pay the toll. Instead the cameras will scan K-Tags, or license plates, and bill drivers for trips.
The money raised from the toll roads will be used to repay the money used to build the toll lanes and then maintain them.
“69Express will ensure that commuters can travel quickly and safely to their destinations and move goods efficiently throughout the state, further solidifying Kansas as central to interstate commerce,” Kelly said.
“This is a smart investment for our state, and I’m so glad we’re finally moving the dirt and getting this done.”
U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (R-Kan.) agrees with Kelly.
“This is a great example of how bipartisan infrastructure law is creating jobs and building safer, stronger and smarter roads across Kansas,” Davids said.
“I am proud to have voted to bring federal funding to this project and will continue to work with state and local officials to ensure this project is a success for our community.”
The toll lanes are expected to open in 2025.