The Gardner Police Department is monitoring increased traffic at the I-35/Gardner Rd exit. Vehicles exiting I-35 and heading south on 191st to the KC Logistics Intermodal have caused congestion during peak periods. To date, GPD has not noticed an increase in accidents; however, there have been tickets issued. A traffic count conducted earlier this year is already out of date, and area officials have met to make plans to update all pertinent information, with construction tentatively planned several years out. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Traffic at the I-35 and Gardner Rd exit has increased substantially on the southbound I 35 ramp as vehicles exit and attempt to go south on 191 St.
“We have increased our presence to ensure the safest possible environment for vehicles traveling in the area,” said Jim Pruetting, Gardner police chief. “My suggestion is to use an alternate route if possible and always be prepared to stop in that area and in other areas subject to rush hour congestion.”
With the opening of Amazon at the KC Logistic intermodal, traffic counts have increased, according to Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, Gardner public information officer.
“In June 2016 we took counts on 191st and Gardner Rd North of 191,” Marshall-Oquendo said, “ However, since that time, traffic has increased considerably due to the growth at the intermodal. “
Gardner’s engineering staff is evaluating the traffic and considering appropriate options to improve the safety of the intersection.
“Our traffic engineering consultant has observed the intersection numerous times, most recently within the last week,” Marshall-Oquendo said. “We are currently working with them on developing a temporary solution that we may implement until the interchange is reconstructed. We will continue to work with our staff, consultants, KDOT, businesses and the City of Edgerton to address the traffic concerns at the intersection.”
Currently, there are no plans to add a turn lane in the area.
Funding for improvements at the interchange will be secured and preliminary concepts include intersection improvements for 191st and Gardner Rd and the SB I-35 ramps. The final plan will be developed based on KDOT review and traffic operational analysis that will be completed prior to any final design and construction. The construction is scheduled to begin in 2019 or 2020.
“We are in the process of updating our traffic master plan which will serve as a guide in planning for future development and growth throughout the community,” Marshall-Oquendo said.
To date, Pruetting said there has not been an increase in accidents, although additional patrol in the area may have resulted in more tickets issued.
“Although we aren’t capable of tracking the tickets by location without doing a hand count, our increased presence would point to a probable increase in tickets over years’ past,” Pruetting said.
At this point, increased patrol at the Gardner Rd. exit has not resulted in additional overhead costs. Pruetting said that normal staffing is being utilized, and that funds for two additional officers in next year’s budget will be assigned to traffic duty.
While GPD is monitoring the traffic situation, Pruetting said area officials have already met to discuss long term solutions.
“Unfortunately, the roadway at that location is not designed to handle the heavy traffic flow that now exists, and there is a need to address that issue in the long-term,” Pruetting said. In the past few weeks, Pruetting said he had met with area mayors, fire chief and sheriff to consider long term solutions.
“The group is working on developing a long-term solution to the problem, and group members have reached out to the appropriate departments and representatives at the state level to assist us with that task,” Pruetting said. “There is a need to get something done as soon as practical to prepare for the anticipated growth in the number of businesses and employees associated with the continued expansion of the intermodal area.”
Pruetting said other options had been discussed. “We considered closing 191st Street from I-35 to the Gardner city limits during high traffic times, but ultimately decided not to take that course of action at this time. The traffic backup on I-35 and Gardner Rd at this time is not unlike what we see at other off ramps on I-35 in Johnson County during rush hour in the morning and evening.”
If congestion and accidents increase closing 191 St. may be considered in the future, Pruetting said.