Garden City and Finney County officials showcased a difference in vision on Monday when disputing the scope of the upcoming Jennie Barker Road expansion project — namely whether the soon-to-be-urbanized road should have three lanes or four.
The discussion was broached during a special joint meeting on Monday, during which attendees spent nearly an hour trying to figure out how to move forward with the scope of the project slated to be funded by a .3-cent sales tax increase approved by the public in November, even though project literature disseminated by city staff specified three lanes.
All things considered, a four-lane road would raise the project’s price tag by more than $1.1 million, from more than $6.2 million to more than $7.3 million, but waiting to expand the road until later would cost even more.
A three-lane road would require a westward expansion with easement and right of way acquisition in the direction of Kansas Avenue, but a four-way road would require expansion to both the west and east, near neighboring homes, according to Tyler Glissman, an engineer with Wilson & Company, the group contracted to complete the project.
Garden City Manager Matt Allen said the expense of a four-lane project would exceed the scope of what was conveyed to voters before the sales tax hike was passed and delay construction of the third fire department at the intersection of Jennie Barker Road and Schulman Avenue.
Sam Curran, the city’s public works director, said between 13,000 and 16,000 cars travel on Kansas Avenue per day, and that’s about the amount that would need to travel daily on Jennie Barker Road to necessitate a four- or five-lane expressway.
Funding a larger Jennie Barker Road project, Allen said, would require a dedication of funds from city and or county budgets, or sacrificing a portion of funding for another project supported by the sales tax.
County Commission Chairman Larry Jones said that if a larger road project eventually is going to be adopted, it needs to happen now while there’s still undeveloped property on the west side of Jennie Barker Road and inflation hasn’t increased the cost of the project to untenable levels.
The county commission has expressed repeated interest in the expansion of Jennie Barker Road, but coming up with the funding has been the challenge. Last year, the commission allocated $2 million to a project estimated to cost about $4.38 million, even without right of way acquisition, easements, utility relocations and storm sewer costs.
That allocation was taken off the table with the pursuit of the sales tax hike, Commissioner Dave Jones said, but the county commission still envisioned a four-lane road to be constructed with sales tax revenues.
“That was my assumption,” he said.
Allen noted that city and county commissioners discussed a three-lane road last May at the outset of the project planning process amid concerns that the total project would cost $5 million and only $2 million had been allocated.
Garden City Mayor Roy Cessna expressed with some irritation that the project was promoted to voters as a three-lane road expansion, along with guttering and sidewalks.
“Now six months later we’re talking enhancements of four lanes," he said. "How are we going to do that, along with the zoo project, fire station and indoor gun range?”
Cessna said shifting scope to a four-lane project would defy what was advertised in project literature and official messaging.
“If the county wants to do four lanes, great,” he said. “The county can pay for it.”
City Commissioner Melvin Dale agreed. He said that while four lanes eventually should be built, it shouldn’t be built with the new sales tax revenues.
Allen said any improvement would be a good one, but cost remains the fundamental issue, and project calculations are based on a three-lane expansion.
Still, County Commissioner Lon Pishny said he’s concerned about adopting a three-lane project and then upgrading to a four-lane expansion later on because it would require two rounds of right of way acquisitions and easements instead of just one. It also would require reconstruction of the western curb and sidewalk.
City Commissioner Troy Unruh said he could understand adding to the four-lane section of road where the fire station will be located, but not beyond that.
Dave Jones asked if it would be possible to dedicate more county money to a four-lane road project and if that would create conflict.
“I think that’s a fair discussion for both boards to have,” Allen said. “I don’t think we’re prohibited from it being a four-lane, five-lane expressway. I do think there’s an obligation on the part of the commissions to come up with a funding solution.”
No action was taken.
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