Both the City and County Commissions during a joint meeting on Monday discussed the Jennie Barker Road project — which will be funded by a .3-cent sales tax increase approved by the public in November — which indicated that the project will be three-lanes, and will prepare the area for future expansions, if needed.
The City has already entered a task agreement with Wilson and Company to begin design work for the project, according to Sam Curran, the City’s Public Works Director.
“We need to have the design done by the end of 2019, for the construction in 2020,” Curran said.
According to Tyler Glissman, an engineer with Wilson and Co., his company is looking at designing at three-lane roadway section for the project, which will include urbanized improvements such as road improvements as well as sidewalks, walking trails, a storm sewer, and traffic signals at the intersection of Mary Street and Kansas Highway 156.
The project also included acquisition of right of way sufficient for future expansions or additional lanes.
According to City Finance Director Melinda Hitz there is $7 million from the sales tax increase that will pay for the Jennie Barker Road project.
Curran said the project would cost an estimated $6.5 million for a three-lane road.
“If we go ahead and buy the right of way on the west side, that will probably throw us over the $7 million, so we’re going to have to see what construction bids come in," Curran said. "Hopefully, they are what we’re estimating.”
The City and County would need to acquire land for right of way for potential future projects with the Jennie Barker Road project, like if additional lanes were to be added.
Ideally, the land acquisition would begin in early 2019, Glissman said.
“Then with that, what we’re planning on doing is, with no matter what roadway ends up being built, we’re going to buy all the right of way that we need for future roadway on the east side,” Glissman said, noting that there are a couple of options for acquiring land on the west side of Jennie Barker Road.
One option for the west side would be buying the right of way needed for all the future four-lane or five-lane sections on one lot.
“Then on the next two lots on the west side, we can have an option of just buying enough for a three-lane section, or the four-lane, depending on the need or the cost,” Glissman said. “If we end up trying to buy all the four-lane, there’s a chance that we exceed the budgeted amount for the project. That right of way negotiations would kind of determine what would be purchased.”
County Administrator Randy Partington said during Monday’s meeting that since Jennie Barker is still a county road, that that county will take care of the land acquisition process. Partington also said the City would take over maintenance of Jennie Barker Road after completion of construction.
County chairman Larry Jones said during Monday’s meeting that the County Commission came to the consensus that whatever the City decides to do in terms of the project, to make sure that enough right-of-way is purchased for potential future projects, like adding a fourth lane.
County Commissioner Lon Pishny said the unsolicited feedback he’s received from people on the eastern side of the county are in favor of asking for a four-lane road, he said.
“I also understand the dollars… Our thought was if that right of way can be purchased, some day its going to be a four-lane out there. We understand there’s dollars and cents involved too.”
Glissman said there is just under 6,000 vehicles a day that are driven south of Schulman Avenue on Jennie Barker Road.
“A three lane section can generally handle about 18,000 vehicles a day… That’s three times the volume that’s south of Schulman,” he said. “Then a four-lane can handle a little bit more traffic volume, but what generally happens is you get a lot of turning movements — left turns — that act like a three lane section.”
Because of this, Glissman said three lane and four lane roads are fairly similar.
“You end up with that inter-lane on both directions acts as a left-turn lane,” he said.
Curran said that accidents on a four-lane road are more likely to happen by 30 to 40 percent as opposed to a three-lane section, citing a federal study.
“The problem with a four lane is when someone is in front of you stopping to turn left, you’re expecting to keep going, so you’re probably going to rear-end someone and those types of accidents,” Curran said. “With a three lane road, you don’t expect those kinds of accidents.”
Glissman said one thing to consider is the lifespan of the pavement as well, when considering an additional lane.
“If you don’t need that extra volume for an extra 20 years, you’re paying for that pavement that’s not needed for another 20 years down the road, then it’s at the end of its life cycle,” he said.
Pishny said he believes his constituents would prefer a four-lane over a three-lane because of its convenience, and because of the expected growth of the community.
“Whether it’s a three-lane or four-lane, there will be more traffic coming from the north…” Pishny said. “It’s thinking into the future, but I would say it’s more of a convenience of traffic flow over a safety concern, though there is always a concern about safety.”
Construction for the Jennie Barker Road project is expected to begin sometime in 2020.
No action was taken by either commission during the meeting.