Howard Lubliner, Burns and McDonnell engineer, answers questions from patrons Larry and Donna Pearce at an open house/public meeting regarding the I-35 & Gardner Road Interchange Project. The event was hosted by The City of Gardner at the Gardner Library on Apr. 3. The materials displayed can also be viewed on the city website. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The city has been exploring options for improvements to the I-35 & Gardner Road interchange and has narrowed 12 proposed solutions down to three. The interchange was discussed at the April 2 work session and council meeting, and the three redesign options were on display at an open house/public meeting on April 3.
In March, Steve Shute, mayor, told council he had a meeting with Governor Jeff Colyer and expected to “bring back money” for the Gardner Rd/I-35 interchange. At the April 2 city council meeting, Randy Gregorcyk, council member, questioned Shute on the meeting’s outcome and said he had looked at the state budget and wondered where the state would get the money for the various Gardner road projects. Cost estimates run about $20 million. He asked Shute for an update on a recent meeting with Colyer.
Shute said he believed the meeting was productive. “ Okay we met with the governor and the Secretary of Transportation, the two senators that serve this area, as well as Bill Sutton and also we had Greg Smith, who is the county sheriff’s liaison for public safety to the legislature,” Shute said. “We did not get a $20 million dollar check written out to us, so that did not happen.”
Although no money was specifically pledged, Shute told Gregorcyk that the city received an assurance from the governor that the interchange would be reviewed; and it would be a priority project that he (governor) wants regular updates from his the Secretary of Transportation. “So that’s happening on a regular basis now,” Shute said. “So it’s gonna be on the front of that plate going forward.  What I told the governor is that I know that there’s no money right now before 2021,  but we’re looking to try to  accelerate that timeline, and so he did agree it is a public safety issue as well as an eco dev issue, so that’s where we stand.”
“So you’re looking at I-35 in Gardner Road, entertained at $3.6 million, Waverly Road reconstruction 175th at $1.3 million, rounding up by $5,000, and Gardner Road bridge over I-35 for $1.6 million,” Gregorcyk continued. “Is that what you discussed that they would roll because I look at their depleted state budget, and I don’t know where they’re gonna get this money.”
Shute continued, “Well again, they are spending money Randy; they are spending money right now on multiple projects. I believe there was just money allocated matter of fact for South Homestead Lane past I-35 for the Kubota phase two of LPKC, so there is money.”
Gregorcyk said that was due to the economic driver that is the Edgerton intermodal.
Shute agreed. “The total amount for that… from the standpoint of the Gardner Road Interchange area is somewhere on the order of$20 million. It depends on what interchange proposal they decide to go with, and they meaning us, decide to move forward with, along with KDOT. But that’s what they’re, that’s what we’re looking at, in terms of an overall number for everything, which includes the approach ramps the street improvements, signalization and the bridge.”

Traffic Problem
Updating the interchange is necessary to improve traffic flow and safety, and to prepare for future growth.
The increase in traffic came first from the Intermodal/LPKC facility that brings employee and business traffic. The I-35 southbound exit ramp onto Gardner Road and 191st Street are too close, it is often difficult to make turns onto or off of Gardner Road, especially at certain times of the day.
Traffic exits I-35 from both directions at the Gardner Road exit, coming to a stop sign at Gardner Road. That traffic turns north onto Gardner Road, then almost immediately turns left onto 191st Street to the Intermodal.
More development is coming to the area and will add more traffic.
Gardner annexation has already crossed I-35. At the State of the City address on March 6, Steve Shute, mayor, said the city plans annex “at least 2500 acres of land on the other side of I-35.”
Tuscan Farms, a new housing subdivision, starts construction this spring. Olathe Health will soon be building a 10,000 square foot urgent care and specialty center near the intersection.

Proposed Solutions
The interchange project was in the Capitol Improvement Program (CIP), presented to council in a work session on April 2. The CIP includes a five year look at major projects, when they expect to begin them and how they will be funded.
The I-35 and Gardner Road Interchange project is listed as project # PW1701, targeted to begin in 2019. Total project cost is listed as $4,283,000. Construction cost is listed as $3.65M. The city expects to receive $3.65M in combined funding from Mid America Regional Council (MARC) and the Special Highway Fund.
The bridge over I-35, owned by KDOT, is a separate project listed as # PW2102 in the CIP. The existing two lane bridge will be replaced with a four lane structure. Engineering is slated to begin in 2020 and construction in 2021. Total project cost is listed as $18M, funded by MARC and the Special Highway Fund.
The city has hired Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company to study the area and develop improved designs.
Twelve initial alternatives were developed and reviewed as part of this project. Based on a number of criteria, three alternatives have been identified as the most viable and are being carried forward for consideration. Those three alternatives were on display at the April 3 open house and can also be viewed on the city website.