Commissioners approve Sedgwick County match of Kellogg, I-235 interchange reconstruction

12/06/2012 6:57 AM

12/06/2012 6:58 AM

A project to reconstruct the interchange at Kellogg and I-235 moved forward Wednesday when Sedgwick County commissioners approved, 4 to 1, an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation and city of Wichita.

The vote ended any doubt that the county would provide a local match for 10 percent of the first phase of the project, estimated to cost $116 million.

“I’m happy for a lot of reasons,” said commission chairman Tim Norton, who also leads the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization focused on transportation issues.

“This is a huge project that needs to move forward We don’t need to be obstructionists and hold it up for any reason.”

KDOT spokesman Tom Hein said local matches “allow us to stretch our dollars statewide.”

The first phase of the project will be bid out in September 2015, he said. Construction would begin after that and take about two years. How three other phases will be paid for hasn’t been determined, Hein said.

“This is one-step-at-a-time kind of a thing,” he said.

But the agreement signed Wednesday — the city signed it last month — “is an important milestone so we continue progress. Any delay would snowball. This is a good thing to keep things on schedule.”

A vote on the local match deadlocked last week when Norton and Commissioner Dave Unruh voted to sign the agreement and Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau voted against doing so. Commissioner Jim Skelton was on vacation last week.

Peterjohn voted “no” again Wednesday, worried about tying the hands of future commissioners and expressing concern about the city not taking responsibility for roads during annexations.

But Ranzau surprised his colleagues when he said he would support the project even if his idea to pay cash — and not turn to bond financing — for the local match failed.

The county will divert $3.1 million of federal funds each year for three years — money typically set aside for county road and bridge projects — for its match. That leaves $2.3 million to be funded. Ranzau wanted to use cash for that, but his motion to do so failed.

Peterjohn and Ranzau also had voted last year against including the project in the county’s capital improvement plan.

Ranzau said he never doubted the importance of the project. He said he “fought the fight” to pay cash.

“We’ll move on, and I’ll continue to fight for better decisions in the future,” he said. “I’d done all I could to improve the terms. My vote was an indication that I understand the importance of the project.”

Ranzau said an e-mail from a supporter who encouraged him to rethink his stance helped influence him.

The first phase will include:

• An elevated one-lane flyover ramp connecting northbound I-235 to westbound U.S. 54.
• A two-lane flyover ramp from southbound I-235 to eastbound U.S. 54.
• Removal of the loop ramps in the southwest and northeast quadrants of the interchange.
• Reconstruction of the loop ramp in the southeast quadrant.
• Reconfiguration of the eastbound Kellogg ramp to West Street that also will accommodate the two ramps that access eastbound 54 from I-235.
• The addition of auxiliary lanes on southbound and northbound I-235 between U.S. 54 and Central.

Norton said he didn’t understand arguments that the city should fund the local match.

“We serve the same constituents. We have an obligation on projects occasionally that have far-reaching implications for all of the citizens of Sedgwick County,” Norton said.

“A major intersection of an interstate and a main arterial highway in our county that moves a lot of people . . . seems like a place we would be involved and put our money, particularly when the state asks us to be a part of the local match process.”

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