Purchase photos

Kan. considers tolls for KC-area highways


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Kansas officials have been considering the long-term possibility of adding toll costs to some Kansas highways in the Kansas City area in a bid to ease traffic congestion and help pay for road improvements.

Tolls may be an option decades from now for commuters on parts of Interstate 35, Kansas 10 and other highways on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metropolitan area, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/16nfDBv) .

Although Kansas is locked into a 10-year, $8 billion plan for its highways, the state still has hundreds of millions of dollars in highway needs in the Kansas City metro area. State officials stress that any new tolls would apply to new lanes, not existing ones, so taxpayers won't have to pay double for roads they use.

"As things get more expensive, we're looking at alternative ways to help pay for transportation," said Chris Herrick, the planning director for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Express lanes for drivers willing to pay more to avoid traffic are seen as a possible way to address hundreds of millions of dollars in highway needs in the Kansas City area, where there can be considerable traffic congestion.

While expanded toll roads appear decades away, planners say they increasingly see them as a tool for easing metro-area commutes.

In addition to studying the possibility of using tolled express lanes on Kansas 10, I-35 and I-435, planners have also studied using tolls to pay for a new bridge across the Missouri River connecting Leavenworth to Platte County. A study done earlier this year showed that it's expected to cost up to $120 million to replace the existing Centennial Bridge, and a $1.50 toll could bring in $4 million the first year.

Tolls have also been considered as a way to help pay for a proposed highway loop outside of Interstate 435 on the outskirts of the Kansas City metro area from Missouri west through Miami County and turning north up to Leavenworth County.

Kansas has become more receptive to the idea of tolling as lawmakers work to squeeze more out of the budget.

"It's a reflection of the economic times we're in and that money's tight," said Mell Henderson, the director of transportation for the Mid-America Regional Council.