West KC metropolitan area ‘outer loop’ discussed
Officials from Douglas County and four other counties in the Kansas City metropolitan region will meet with the Kansas Department of Transportation next week in Olathe to discuss the possibility of building a new beltway outside the Interstate 435 loop.
The group is called the Stakeholder Advisory Panel for the Five County Regional Transportation Study. That group has been meeting for about four years. It includes officials from KDOT, the Mid-America Regional Council and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Organization. It was formed to study the changing transportation needs in Douglas, Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Miami counties in Kansas.
The so-called “outer loop” project has been talked about for years, but has never been ranked as a high priority. In October, the five-county stakeholder group issued a preliminary report about potential long-range transportation projects, and the so-called “outer loop” project scored low on the priority list.
But it was given new life in recent days when Gov. Sam Brownback said he wanted to see more serious discussion of the project. There are no plans to include the project in the state’s most recent multi-year transportation plan known as T-Works.
Discussions of the project have focused on a route from Interstate 70 south of Tonganoxie, then south toward Gardner near the Miami County line, and east toward Missouri.
Brownback said the opening of the new BNSF intermodal shipping hub near Edgerton in southern Johnson County will generate more traffic in the area, creating a need for additional roadway. He also indicated the metro area’s continued expansion west would drive the need for a new highway.
Such a project could have an impact on traffic flow between Lawrence and Johnson County, but local officials say they think it’s still too early to tell whether such a project would be good for Douglas County.
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he also thinks it’s still to early to know how such a project might affect the local area.
“The discussion and proposal are not anywhere near the point that anybody could be in a position to say that they support it or oppose it,” Weinaug said in an email when asked about the project.