Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
A special meeting of Gardner city council was held on May 14 with the singular purpose of coming to consensus on choosing a design option for the Gardner Road and I-35 Interchange project.
At the previous council meeting on May 7, council was presented with three alternative designs – Alternative A, double diamond interchange; Alternative B, split interchange and Alternative C, a Folded Diamond.
Staff and Gardner Police Department recommended A (the double diamond.) The Kansas Dept. of Transportation (KDOT) and the developers of the future Olathe Medical Center facility favored A.
Owners of the existing businesses along 191st Street were strongly for the folded diamond – Option C.
Alternative C is the only option that does not eliminate or alter a portion of 191st Street that intersects with Gardner Road.
Alternative B (split interchange) was ruled out at the last meeting, but council could not come to consensus on choosing between Alternative A and C.
Howard Lubliner of Burns and McDonnell. began the meeting with a 15 minute presentation which included a computer animated simulation of traffic flow within the options. Lubliner said the intersection has 1,700 vehicles per hour at peak times of the day.
After the presentation, Steve Shute, mayor, opened the floor for public comments, reminding speakers there was a five minute limit.
First to speak was Rob Laquet, owner of the Phillips 66 station on 191st Street, who said he was there to plead for the survival of his business.
Alternative A would remove both existing entrances to the Phillip 66 convenience store. To reach the store, traffic would go west on 188th street and then loop south. Lockey says this will destroy his business.
“I know for a fact, if we pick option A, I’ll be out of business,” said Laquet.
Mark Hannah, attorney representing the Radke Trust, an adjoining 60 acre property, spoke next.
Hannah said 191st Street was the only existing access road to this property.
He said the property owners had hired their own engineering consultants who found numerous problems with the double diamond (A). He said that Burns and McDonnell had referred heavily to traffic study data that his team had requested three times but never received.
John Staton, representing Olathe Health, told council the plan is to start small and grow with the community, in the same way as they have done at 151st over the past decades.
“In order to make that property work over the long term, we’re going to have to have the right access. and I can tell you honestly if the only access is up at 188th street […] that’s just not going to be workable for developing that site,” he said.
Staton described the minimum access the developers require.
“On northbound we’re going to need a right in, right out, and we’re going to need southbound, minimum, left turn in. So with whatever your final decision is on the interchange, that’s going to be the requirements for us in order to do our project and move forward. And If we can’t get that, we’re going to have to re-evaluate how we use that property, if at all,” said Staton.
John Peterson, representing owners of the joining property labeled Gardner 188 LLC, told council they welcomed Olathe Health and other developments, but they did not want to give any more property for right of ways, as they had already generously done that in the past.
Greg Martinette, president of Southwest Johnson Count Economic Development Corporation, told council he had been in talks with other developers interested in that area.
“They’re all waiting, and they’ve told us what they want, and some of these aren’t going to happen if it’s not done the right way. And so far it’s been option A (double diamond) that they’ve all preferred,” said Martinette.
Martinette said there was $60-$100M of investment “almost ready to go” but it was all dependent on council’s decision. He said interested developers included “multiple hotels, restaurants and other things.”
During council discussion, Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he appreciated the extra time council had for discovery.
“I came to the conclusion that the viability of commercial sites for option A (double diamond) is substantial,” said Gregorcyk.
Rich Melton, council vice-president, discussed one of the original 12 designs that was not one of the final three recommendations. He wanted to present that to KDOT.
Todd Winters, council member, said he had decided on Alternative A (double diamond).
“At this point, it’s the A option that in the long term opens up more commercial space, better traffic flow, it seems to be the more agreeable option,” said Winters.
Mark Baldwin, council member, had many questions and comments on the topic but also had decided on Alternative A, based on long term outlook.
“To me Alternate A is the way to go. Let’s face it, the way money is, in the design of these types of things, the next time this gets done, we’re all going to be in the ground, so this is a lifetime decision right here,” said Baldwin.
After Baldwin’s comments, Gregorcyck stated that council had reached consensus, but Shute wanted to continue discussion.
“I think it would be wise to look at all the options and not just necessarily the two,” said Shute.
Shute favored a Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) design, which was not one of the three final recommendations and discussed why council should consider it.
Baldwin, Gregorcyk and Winters remained steadfast in favor of Alternative (double diamond), maintaining the majority consensus.
Shute noted consensus, adding he was not a fan of Alternative A and then adjourned the meeting.