Politics & Government

August 30, 2014

East Kellogg interchange plan getting major reboot

The planned Webb Road exit may no longer include a direct turnpike link to Kellogg.

The Kellogg interchange at Webb Road and the Kansas Turnpike is undergoing a drastic redesign after the original plan proved too expensive.

The city originally planned a complex Kellogg overpass with a high-speed double off/on-ramp that linked the turnpike and Webb Road, plus access roads on both sides. Initially estimated at $97 million, the project was put out to bid in January and attracted just one bidder. The bid came in millions of dollars over budget and was rejected, according to several accounts.

Engineers and administrators for the city of Wichita now are picking between options to reconfigure the interchange, with the Kansas Department of Transportation and Kansas Turnpike Authority closely involved in the decision-making, said officials with all three agencies.

Officials would not talk about the exact configuration of the likely winner, saying the final concept will be unveiled to the public in mid-October. The city would then start buying land.

But several officials said the preferred choice would probably move the main East Kellogg access to the turnpike two miles east to the K-96 on-ramp around 127th Street, where there is already an exit from K-96 onto the turnpike.

Rachel Bell, spokeswoman for the Kansas Turnpike Authority, said the authority did a study this summer that recommended that the Kellogg/K-96/turnpike interchange be made more rational and easier to use.

Bell and other officials said that study recommended that access to the turnpike from Kellogg in the area of Webb Road be kept in the plans, but it would not be the high-profile exit that had been planned. That would allow the city to leave the turnpike out of a Webb Road/Kellogg interchange.

“The idea is that it might allow the city more options,” she said.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said the process has several good news angles for Wichitans.

KDOT and KTA have become very interested in a solution, Layton said, which means more financial support. And because there is more financial support, he said, the city expects to be able to plan and push ahead with the widening of Kellogg all the way to K-96.

“It will allow us to do Kellogg all in one fell swoop,” he said.

The project would still be done in phases, but there wouldn’t be long gaps between projects as the city waits to accrue enough local sales tax money to fund another mile of Kellogg widening, he said.

It’s unclear how the redesign would affect the ongoing lawsuit between the city of Wichita and 10 property owners whose land was taken by eminent domain for the project. The city also has acquired another 30 parcels in the area.

A court-appointed panel of three appraisers awarded the owners of the 10 parcels a collective $19.6 million for their properties in November.

The Wichita City Council approved the award, as required by the court, but the amount far exceeded an internal estimate in the $4 million to $5 million range.

In December, the city sued the landowners to see if a court would reduce the valuations.

Some of that land probably would not be needed if the interchange is redesigned.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

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