It appeared that dignitaries may be about to be pulled by a dump truck onto southbound Interstate 35, but the scene on the off ramp of I-35 at Homestead Lane was a celebration of collaboration instead.
Ed Eilert, Chair of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, the new interchange, which opened at the end of September, is a harbinger of growth to come to the south part of the county.
“This will serve as a main gateway to Johnson County,” Eilert said.
Eilert spoke from a lectern on the back of a trailer hitched to a dump truck. He was joined on the make-shift stage by Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow, Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts, and the Kansas Secretary of Transportation, Mike King.
King said the state should be investing its money in infrastructure like the new interchange.
“You see some empty space around here,” King said, indicating to vast fields nearby. “…Think what it has the potential to look like.”
He said the diverging diamond design of the interchange will limit accidents at Homestead Lane, while the interchange itself will spark economic development over the course of the next five to 20 years.
The Kansas Department of Transportation funded the interchange project and a heavy haul road on Homestead Lane. Typically when road work is completed, KDOT will turn completed roads, like Homestead Lane, over to the municipality for maintenance and upkeep. That hasn’t yet happened in Edgerton.
Just because the asphalt is down, that doesn’t mean the partnership between the cities, county and state ends.
King said the groups are planning to create a freight advisory council that will help determine how expensive heavy-haul roads near the intermodal and possibly around the state are maintained.
The local intermodal is one of the few intermodal projects in the country that does not require some sort of heavy haul permits for commercial vehicles. That is one thing the freight advisory council may consider.
At a council meeting last month, Edgerton tabled discussion about permitting on heavy haul roads deciding instead to acquiesce to state permitting regulations at this time.
Mayors Roberts and Morrow and project designers also gave brief speeches during the interchange grand opening event before cutting a red ribbon to officially open the interchange.