Danedri Thompson
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Edgerton will upgrade Waverly Road making it usable for heavy haul traffic. The $30 million road improvements will be financed via a gift from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and a dedicated local utility sales tax collected from Logistics Park of Kansas City (LPKC) tenants.
Beth Linn, Edgerton City Administrator, said Edgerton’s portion of the road will cost up to $6  million or 20 percent of the final project costs.
The project will improve nearly three miles of Waverly Road between U.S. 56 Highway and 199th Street and will include the construction of a grade separation at the BNSF intermodal railroad tracks so traffic can operate without train delays.
Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts, in a press release, said expanding Waverly Road is a critical step to build infrastructure.
“Increasing opportunity for companies to have direct access to the heavy-haul corridor, making more land accessible for development and offering direct-rail served properties will positively impact the ability to attract new development at LPKC.
Edgerton’s investment in Waverly Road may be seen as encroachment by the community’s eastern neighbor. Edgerton and Gardner have long discussed drafting annexation agreements that would pre-determine each cities border.
Members of both Edgerton and Gardner councils met as recently as 2010 to hash out a boundary agreement. At the time, Gardner advocated that Waverly Road be the dividing line. Though discussions ended at an impasse, both councils agreed to conduct a financial feasibility study to hash out the potential costs of each community funding the construction and ongoing maintenance of a heavy-haul Waverly Road.
Linn, who was not Edgerton’s administrator back then, said Edgerton has already annexed much of the land on the east side of Waverly Road in the area to be upgraded.
“There are a few remaining properties (on the east) that are still in unincorporated parts of the county,” Linn said. “I would say probably 70 percent or even 80 percent is already within Edgerton city limits.”
Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow said the heavy haul road will make the area along the east side of Waverly Road attractive to some developers, and he noted there are still pockets along the area that could potentially end up in Gardner.
“Obviously we can still annex property on the east side,” Morrow said. “Gardner’s ability to provide roads, storm water, wastewater, and electric service is unique in Johnson County.”
Morrow said he is disappointed that KDOT has decided to make such an investment so close to Gardner without including Gardner officials in the discussion. KDOT will fund 80 percent of the Waverly Road design and construction.
“Seeing as how the 22,000-plus residents of Gardner pay Kansas taxes, special highway taxes, property taxes and other taxes on fuel that fund KDOT activities, it would be nice to have a more collaborative effort on a project like this,” Morrow said.
The cost to maintain heavy-haul roads is prohibitive, and Linn said Edgerton officials are still formulating plans to fund ongoing maintenance of its heavy haul roads, which in addition to Waverly Road, include Homestead Lane. Johnson County still owns and maintains 191st Street, the other heavy-haul road bordering the intermodal. The state and Edgerton officials are working to hammer-out details of a maintenance plan that would see the city funding repairs on Waverly north of 199th Street with the state funding maintenance on a bridge over Interstate 35.
Currently state law allows trucks of up to 80,000 pounds gross weight on the interstate and up to 85,000 pounds on other highways. BNSF allows the shipment of heavy containers along the railway that once placed on a truck would push the vehicle over the maximum gross vehicle weight.
The state does, however, allow truck drivers to purchase overweight/oversize permits.Kansas’ heavy-haul permits for state-owned roads and highways cost between $25 and $2,000.
Other intermodals in the state have charge their own heavy-haul permit fees. Edgerton has not set up such a fee, but Linn said heavy-haul permitting fees may be part of Edgerton’s discussion about financing the maintenance of its upgraded roads.
In the past, there have been rumors that state officials may change laws that allow municipalities to set overweight fees in their own jurisdictions.
“We have not heard any rumblings that that will be legislation that moves forward in this session,” Linn said.
When KDOT Secretary Mike King spoke at the opening of the Homestead Lane-I-35 interchange in October 2013, he said funding heavy haul road maintenance would be a discussion for a freight advisory committee. The advisory committee, which did not include any Edgerton officials, met this year. Linn and Roberts attended the meetings as observers, and Linn said she doesn’t recall heavy-haul permitting mentioned in any way more than in passing.
She said the city would likely oppose any attempts to disallow municipalities to offer their own permits, should the topic arise.
“Edgeton’s perspective on that is we are the most familiar with our infrastructure and we know best how to make sure we are regulating those that need regulating, and if necessary, doing permitting,” she said.
Edgerton anticipates identifying a design-build team for the Waverly Road improvements in the next 30-days with a goal of a completing the project in 2016.
The infrastructure enhancements will provide access to property on Waverly Road south of 191st Street and the direct-rail served property north of 183rd Street, allowing 3.4 million additional square feet of direct rail space, in addition to the 11 million square feet of warehouse space at LPKC by NorthPoint Development.
In conjunction with the project, BNSF Railway will construct an industrial lead track to serve the property north of its LPKC Intermodal Facility for rail-served warehouses.
Funding for Waverly Road and the new BNSF lead track will be provided, per agreement, by KDOT, BNSF and the city. BNSF’s funds will be used to build the lead track. KDOT will foot 80 percent of the bill to make Waverly Road a heavy-haul road and Edgerton will pick up the remainder of the tab.