Sedgwick County Commission deadlocks on Kellogg, I-235 reconstruction

Traffic on Kellogg at the I-235 interchange. (May 13, 2011)
Traffic on Kellogg at the I-235 interchange. (May 13, 2011) File photo

With one board member absent, Sedgwick County commissioners couldn’t agree Wednesday about a $116 million project to reconstruct the interchange at Kellogg and I-235.

The board deadlocked with a 2-2 vote with Commissioner Jim Skelton absent. Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau voted against signing an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation and the city of Wichita promising that the county would provide a 10 percent local match – about $11.6 million – for the project. They said it should be paid for by the city, not the county.

Commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unruh voted to sign the agreement.

Skelton was on vacation, officials said. Because of the tie vote, the matter will have to come back to the board later for another vote.

Fixing the dangerous interchange is a priority for the area. About 54,000 vehicles use I-235 every day, and the interstate is projected to carry 71,000 vehicles a day in 2040. Kellogg carries 97,000 vehicles daily and is projected to handle 103,000 vehicles a day in 2040.

From 2004 to 2008, there were 243 accidents resulting in 79 injuries and one fatality at the interchange, according to KDOT. Making the interchange easier to maneuver was the No. 1 priority of the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is chaired by Norton.

For its part, the city agreed to put up the matches for projects to improve Kellogg at Webb and Greenwich roads and to construct a $50 million flyover connecting I-235 and 13th Street. Commissioners voted 3-2 last year to place the I-235 and Kellogg project in the county’s capital improvement plan.

Peterjohn and Ranzau also voted against that agreement.

Reconstruction of the I-235 and Kellogg interchange is a four-phase project. The county’s local match, if commissioners approve it later, would be for the first phase, referred to as the “red” phase.

The first phase will include:

County public works director David Spears said the state plans to put the project out for bid in late 2015. The county’s capital improvement plan includes $4 million for the project in 2016, $4 million in 2017 and $3.6 million in 2018.

The county “negotiated with KDOT, and they’ve agreed to apply 100 percent of the county’s federal funds allocation to the project,” Spears said.

KDOT has estimated that federal funding to the county will be $3.1 million per year, Spears said.

“The balance of the local share will be funded with bonds in the amount of $2.3 million,” Spears said.

That’s if the commission approves the agreement. Skelton has supported it in the past.

Peterjohn said he agreed the project was necessary and important. But, “I don’t see why the city of Wichita shouldn’t be involved in a project that’s entirely within their corporate limits, that’s this large and that’s this comprehensive,” he said.

He also expressed concern about obligating future commissioners out to 2018.

Ranzau said he was worried about “setting a dangerous precedent going forward,” with the city and state expecting the county to pay the local match for future phases of the project.

“This is phase one of phase four,” he said. “Will it create the expectation in the future that we will do the same going forward? There are revenue streams available to the city of Wichita to pay for this.”

Norton and Unruh said the county and city already had agreed to split up local matches required for several transportation projects.

“This will benefit all citizens in Sedgwick County,” Unruh said.

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