FAQs

Project Overview

The U.S. 69 Corridor Modernization and Expansion Project – also known as 69Express – will address long-term congestion on U.S. 69 between 151st and 103rd Streets in Overland Park. The interchange at 167th Street is also part of this project.

The portion of U.S. 69 between 151st and 103rd Streets in Overland Park, Kansas.  The interchange at 167th Street is also part of this project.

Studies and related projects over the last 25 years have identified safety and congestion issues along U.S. 69 that are projected to grow significantly. While COVID- 19 temporarily reduced traffic volumes, U.S. 69 traffic volumes have steadily increased since 2020 and as of June 2021, now exceed pre-pandemic levels. In fact, traffic volume is projected to increase so much that the time it takes today to travel between 179th and 103rd Streets would grow from about 15 minutes today to 90 minutes or more by 2050. This demand is driven by Overland Park, which is expected to grow to 236,000 people by 2036, a 23.2% increase over its 2018 population.

The Environmental Assessment (EA), traffic, safety and toll feasibility analyses began in October 2020, and a noise study began in summer 2021. The completed toll feasibility study supported implementation of express lanes on U.S. 69 Highway. The EA was completed in 2021. The results from these studies showed both community support and environmental clearance. KDOT released the Request for Proposals (RFP) on July 8th and announced the winning design-build team in September 2022. Final design on Phase 1 (adding a lane in each direction from 151st to 103rd Streets, plus reconstructing the 167th Street Interchange) began in 2022. There will be some utility movement and survey work done in late 2022. Major construction and traffic impacts will likely not begin until spring of 2023. The express lanes, one lane in each direction, will be open to traffic by the end of 2025 and all construction will be completed in 2026.

In the first phase of the Project, express lanes will be from 103rd Street to 151st Street.

The Overland Park City Council approved the widening of U.S. 69 with express lanes on June 21, 2021. The City of Overland Park, in consultation with KDOT, then proposed express lanes to the Kansas Turnpike Authority Board and the State Finance Council for their respective approvals. Those bodies voted in favor of the Project as presented. On July 8, KDOT announced that the Project will advance from KDOT’s development pipeline to construction.

Project Construction

With the Environmental Assessment complete, including an evaluation of the Project’s potential noise impact, the work of designing the new corridor, toll lanes, and interchanges will begin. Because this is a design-build project, once a portion of the design is complete, the construction will begin in spring of 2023. Following the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issuance of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), in 2022, showing no major environmental impacts, eleven noise walls will be constructed along the corridor. They will begin at 151st and are primarily along the residential areas of the corridor up to Indian Creek. Walls north of 119th and I-35 were installed as part of previous projects.

KDOT will continue to work with low-income, and other traditionally underserved communities to seek their engagement on strategies that will minimize Project impacts to these communities.

KDOT has completed the Environmental Assessment and right-of-way acquisition, utilities and permitting for the Project. KDOT is continuing to meet with key stakeholders and members of the community advisory group who address the needs and concerns of low-income and underserved communities to hear concerns about potential construction impacts and the equity surrounding express lanes.

Construction on the U.S. 69 Expansion Project’s first phase between 151st and 103rd Streets could begin in 2022, with utility movements, Traffic impacts and major construction will begin in 2023, with completion expected in 2025.

Yes. Initially trees in the right-of-way that are in conflict with the work will be removed for utility work. Additional trees may be removed where in conflict with highway construction and noise wall installation. All of these trees, unless otherwise addressed, are located in the KDOT right-of-way or utility easement area. There are no plans at this time to replace these trees.

Toll Lanes: How Will This Work?

The express lanes and the general-purpose lanes will be separated by a double white line. Breaks in the double white line are where drivers can enter and exit the express lanes.

There will be dedicated toll lane entrance and exit ramps at Blue Valley Parkway. From the other entry ramps along the corridor, drivers will be able to enter U.S. 69 just as they do now, and then enter the toll lanes where there are breaks in the double white lines. When drivers utilizing an express lane want to exit U.S. 69, they will move out of the toll lane and back into the general-purpose lanes, then use the exit ramps along the roadway as they do now.

Tolls will be collected electronically using K-TAGs (and other compatible transponder devices) or license plates. Cameras will capture license plate images for vehicles using the express lanes. For a customer who does not have a K-TAG, the vehicle’s registered owner will receive an invoice in the mail for the toll incurred by the vehicle.

K-TAGs will be the most cost-effective way to pay tolls on U.S. 69. A K-TAG is a small device (like a sticker) that adheres to the inside of vehicle’s windshield. For customers who already have K-TAG accounts, trips taken in the U.S. 69 express lanes will appear on their K-TAG monthly statements. Customers who do not have K-TAGs can sign up at myktag.com. The windshield stickers are free and can be mailed directly to the user. Tolls accrued on a K-TAG will be charged to a customer’s bank account or credit/debit card each month. Users also may choose a pre-paid option, available at select Kansas retailers or online at www.BancPass.com.

Equipment used in the toll lanes is focused on those lanes and generally does not capture pictures of anything outside that “region of interest.” The Kansas Turnpike Authority, which will handle toll collection, does not share private information with any third party, except when requested by the customer to help resolve concerns.

There are two types of enforcement to consider: 1) refusing to pay tolls levied for use of the express lanes and 2) improper use of the lanes on the roadway. Refusing to pay tolls will follow the same administrative process as is done on the Kansas Turnpike. This can include referral to a collection agent or placement of a registration hold on the vehicle until the tolls are paid. Customers are given multiple opportunities to pay the tolls before escalating to those steps. Law enforcement will monitor use of the roadway and enforce its proper use. For example, not using the designated entry and exit points and crossing through the buffer area would be ticketed as a moving violation similar to exceeding the speed limit.

Express Lane Considerations

The Project team looked at how each Add Capacity alternative compared in terms of engineering and cost – that is, how easily each one can be designed, built and maintained. ETLs overall perform better from an engineering and cost standpoint. ETLs require a smaller footprint than traditional widening does. They have fewer right-of-way impacts and displace fewer homes and businesses than just adding lanes. As a result, they cost less to build and maintain.

Express lanes also do a better job of reducing congestion and improving travel time reliability. Express lanes enable drivers to choose if they want to pay a toll to drive in the free-flowing express lanes, which in turn helps reduce congestion in the toll-free, general-purpose lanes. ETLs also generate revenue that fund the local contribution the City of Overland Park must make to help accelerate the Project’s construction schedule.

High-Occupancy-Vehicle (HOV), lanes won’t significantly reduce congestion on U.S. 69. The highway has high single-occupancy traffic volume, and the traffic comes and goes from a diverse set of locations. Additionally, many jurisdictions have found that the cost of HOV enforcement – whether tolled or untolled – is so high in terms of detection equipment and law enforcement that it makes HOV lanes an impractical strategy. Around the country, many HOV lanes are being converted to HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes.

Current density and growth patterns in Overland Park and the region don’t support light rail as a feasible solution. Light rail would be expensive to build for the length of the corridor and there isn’t enough existing right-of-way availability, which would mean impacting people’s homes and businesses.

For this corridor, based on land use and growth patterns in Overland Park and the region, it is necessary to widen the highway. The express lanes planned for the corridor will help manage congestion through dynamic pricing for a longer time period than just adding a free lane would. Additional bus service, park-and-ride facilities and bike lanes are being considered, but demand and the density of development don’t make more bus service viable as a stand-alone solution. KDOT is working with Johnson County Transit and Kansas City Area Transit Authority to encourage more bus ridership. KDOT also led an extensive public engagement process to understand other concerns. U.S. 69 presents a complex problem, and KDOT and its partners are working to address safety and congestion and meet the demands of the traveling public.

Express lanes offer a way for U.S. 69 users to generate revenues that will fund Overland Park’s local contribution. As the tolls are collected, that revenue over time will be used to offset initial construction investment of the new lanes for KDOT.

Local contributions are funds and other things of value that cities, counties and sometimes the private sector provide to advance important infrastructure projects. In the case of 69Express, the City of Overland Park’s local contribution to the first phase of construction is $30 million.

The estimated total project cost for express lanes construction from 103rd Street to 179th Street is $655 million, which would be built in four phases. The first phase will construct a new, tolled lane in each direction from 103rd Street to 151st Street, estimated to cost $300 million. As for the $140M extra, the additional costs are being covered by KDOT. KDOT will not seek an increased local contribution from the City of Overland Park. KDOT can cover the additional cost for two reasons: State finances remain strong and KDOT is fully funded for the first time in nearly a decade; and there are additional federal resources coming to Kansas from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Variable rate tolling means that toll rates change with traffic volumes to keep the toll lanes flowing smoothly while also improving traffic flow in the toll-free, general-purpose lanes. Overhead signs communicate the current toll rate to drivers so they can choose for themselves whether they want to pay that price to drive in the free-flowing toll lane.

Rates for various classes of travelers will be set when 69Express opens in 2025. Rates will vary based on congestion levels. It currently is expected that, when Express Lanes open, tolls rates between 103rd and 151st Streets will vary from $.30 to $1.75 depending upon the length of the trip and the time of day.

Tolls will be collected electronically using K-TAGs (and other compatible transponder devices) or license plates. Cameras will capture license plate images for vehicles using the express lanes. For a customer who does not have a K-TAG, the vehicle’s registered owner will receive an invoice in the mail for the toll incurred by the vehicle.

Yes. In a May 2021 survey of area residents, nearly 40% of the 1,257 respondents said they would use the express lanes all of the time, most of the time or some of the time to avoid congestion on U.S. 69. ETLs will provide a more reliable travel time. Traffic analyses show that the tolled lanes would have an average speed of 55 miles per hour (mph). Drivers will use the express lanes to bypass congestion, especially when a predictable travel time is critical, such as getting to an important meeting or picking up a child from day care.

The goal of the express lanes is to raise the City of Overland Park’s $30 million local contribution. Adjusted for inflation and included maintenance, it is estimated that the express lane tolls will generate the $30 million contribution between 2037 and 2042.

By statute, toll revenue raised by this Project must be spent on Project expenses. Toll revenue first will cover its own cost of collection (operations, maintenance and periodic replacement of the roadside toll system), and then will be used to reimburse KDOT for the City’s local contribution toward initial construction costs.

The Project has determined that the net revenue of the express lanes can fund the local contribution from the City of Overland Park. Tolls likely would be in place until sometime between 2037 and 2042 to cover the $30 million local contribution.

No. Tolls will generate revenue for Overland Park’s local contribution and are a tool used to manage traffic volumes in the tolled and free lanes.

No.

No. State law mandates that any existing lane in Kansas remain untolled. Only new, additional lanes can be tolled – and only after a lengthy, detailed partnership process involving the community, KDOT, KTA and state elected officials.

The Kansas Highway Patrol and City of Overland Park Police Department will enforce toll and traffic laws on U.S. 69 as they do now.

This portion of U.S. 69 would follow standard guidance for express lane facilities. Signage and striping are used to make sure everyone understands the new lane is a toll lane. Portions of the roadway will be designated as express lane weave zones where cars can enter and exit the express lane. Ample space and signage will allow drivers time to enter and exit the express lane as needed. As described in the question above, these “lane switchers” would be violating state law: “Official traffic-control devices may be installed prohibiting the changing of lanes on sections of roadway, and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of every such device” or be subject to traffic violation citations. For U.S. 69, the pavement markings used to differentiate the express lanes from the free general- purpose lanes would be official traffic control devices, and moving out of the lane except in designated weave zones would be unlawful and subject to a violation fee.

No. Low-income drivers suffer from traffic congestion now – and would continue to do so for 10 years or more under options that don’t involve express lanes. With ETLs, congestion relief comes to them within about three years, even if they don’t use the tolled lanes. If they choose to use the ETLs occasionally when they would benefit most, the cost to them would be less than half of the cost of the increased tax burden that would have come with traditional widening. Additionally, KDOT will be working with low-income and other traditionally underserved communities to identify strategies to minimize impacts to them prior to the Project’s opening in 2025.

State legislation passed in 2019 allowed express lanes if requested by a local community in partnership with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). The Overland Park City Council voted 10-2 to advance its U.S. 69 Express Lanes proposal on June 21, 2021. The proposal received approval by the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA), the state’s toll agency, and by the State Finance Council (SFC), a group comprised of the Governor and legislative leaders and created by statute to consider needed actions when the legislature is not in session and/or when specific legislation calls upon approval of the SFC.

The express lanes solution will permit transit vehicles to use the express lanes at a reduced toll rate. This would allow individual transit riders to access a reliable trip at a low or no cost. KDOT anticipates that any hike/bike paths or sidewalks affected by project construction would be restored as part of the project. Additionally, connectivity across U.S. 69, which can be a barrier to pedestrians and cyclists, would be improved at the various cross streets that do not have sidewalks or hike/bike facilities. Bike lanes on the arterial streets that cross U.S. 69 would be evaluated using the City’s criteria.

The U.S. 69 Express Lanes will be owned and maintained by KDOT. Tolling will be handled by the KTA.

Solutions Considered

The EA examined six alternatives for addressing U.S. 69 safety and congestion issues:

  • No-Build, used as a benchmark for comparison with build alternatives;
  • Improvement to alternative routes;
  • Existing capacity management through technologies (for example, ramp metering, queue warning systems and other traveler information) or demand management, including carpooling and staggering work shifts;
  • Multimodal, primarily bus improvements such as increasing the frequency and number of transit routes, bus on shoulder and transit on demand; and improving bike and pedestrian facilities;
  • Add Capacity – Traditional Widening; and
  • Add Capacity – Express Lanes.

Strategies such as expanded transit, interchange improvements and ramp metering are not sufficient to address problems in the corridor. They also cost more and take much longer to implement and provide improvement benefits. New capacity – in the form of added lanes – are needed to address current and future congestion.

After much study, the Project Team determined that express lanes are the best way to widen the highway in terms of cost and additional long-term safety, traffic flow and trip time reliability benefits. Based upon approvals in June 2021 by the Overland Park City Council, the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the State Finance Council, the plan is for U.S. 69 to be widened with one ETL in each direction and two free lanes in each direction, with final design and construction beginning by 2022.

An express lane is a lane available to any driver who chooses to pay a user fee (toll) to achieve more reliable travel time. The toll rate goes up as traffic increases (such as during rush hour or other peak traffic times) to keep the toll lane flowing smoothly and the toll-free, general-purpose lanes also flowing better. Tolls are collected automatically via electronic transponders or with license plate readers. The current price to enter the toll lane is communicated to drivers via signs so drivers choose for themselves whether they want to pay that price to drive in the free-flowing toll lane. Thus, the price of the toll varies with the amount of traffic in the corridor. By providing choices, express lanes reduce delays, manage congestion and keep travel times reliable for drivers.

The U.S. 69 Expansion Project has evolved over time as a result of frequent, extensive outreach to people who use or rely on the corridor between 103rd and 179th Streets. In addition to years of outreach connected to previous studies regarding how to improve U.S. 69, in the last 15 months, the Project Team has, among other efforts, interviewed community leaders, held focus groups with corridor users, undertaken multiple statistically valid surveys and conducted multiple online and in- person community briefings and public meetings. As a result, a number of significant design changes have been made in the project, including but not limited to the following:

  • Express Lanes (ETLs) – This solution was developed in response to public demand for a faster, cheaper and more lasting solution to U.S. 69 congestion.
  • Equity Strategies – Although people were willing to consider Express Lanes as a solution, they also wanted to make sure that the lanes did not cause unforeseen issues for lower-income or disadvantaged motorists. As a result, an Equity committee has been set up to identify what issues, if any, may arise and to develop solutions to them to be implemented before the ETLs open in 2025.
  • Noise Wall Design Standards – Corridor residents identified noise as a major concern. As a result of their input, KDOT policy decisions have resulted in noise walls being proposed in a greater number of locations and, if approved by those affected, will be built as part of the project to minimize noise impacts.
  • Design and Alignment Changes – Area residents and travelers throughout the community engagement process have identified areas of concern where, if possible, they would like to see design changes to minimize local impacts or to improve safety, access or other desired outcomes. Some examples include:
    • At 139th Street, design changes were made to provide desired bike/ped accommodations and to address local safety concerns;
    • Corridor users were concerned about the ease and safety of accessing the Express Lanes to and from Blue Valley Parkway, so direct access was designed into the facility; and
    • Federal funding was sought and secured in response to local need for improved, safer 167th Street access to and from U.S. 69.

Finally, it’s important to note that U.S. 69 improvements will be built using Design-Build, an alternative project delivery approach. Design-Build allows the project to be completed on the fastest possible schedule.

Noise Study and Findings

The Project team evaluated potential noise impacts as part of the Environmental Assessment and determined whether noise control measures were warranted and can be feasibly and reasonably built under federal and state policies. To improve uniformity on the projects, KDOT used the same version of the noise policy that was used on the previous I-435 and U.S. 69 projects – along with updated traffic volumes and design information for U.S. 69’s current and projected conditions.

KDOT reviewed the study results, including recommendations for noise abatement such as sound walls, with the Overland Park City Council. Results were presented to the public at a Dec. 8 virtual meeting. For those locations where noise walls are recommended for inclusion in the Project, KDOT met with Benefitted Receptors the week of Jan. 24 to determine if they want noise walls. Following these discussions, it was determined that 11 noise walls will be installed along the corridor. They will begin at 151st and are primarily along the residential areas of the corridor up to Indian Creek. Walls north of between 119th and I-35 were installed with previous projects. Find more information on the Resources Tab/Noise Study page.

The U.S. Department of Transportation defines a Benefitted Receptor as a property receiving at least a 5 dB reduction in noise levels from a proposed noise abatement measure such as a noise wall. Find more information on the Resources Tab/Noise Study page.

A detailed FHWA noise model analyzed different noise wall designs and effectiveness at locations within about 500 feet of U.S. 69. The model assumes that the noise receptor faces the highway at about five feet from the exterior wall of each structure. A receptor is considered benefitted when at least a 5 dBA reduction is predicted to occur with the future roadway configuration and traffic levels. Find more information on the Resources Tab/Noise Study page.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, a 5 dBA change is the level at which most people perceive a perceptible sound difference.

There is no standard example of what a 5 dBA reduction will sound like as different people will perceive the reduction differently.

Anyone was able to attend the noise meetings, which have been publicized in the local media, on the project website and through project social media. Only Benefitted Receptors were invited, however, as they were the only ones eligible to vote on whether or not to approve any proposed noise mitigation solution for their area. The invitation sent to each of them was to make sure they knew about the opportunity to cast their votes.

Meeting times were selected to make it convenient for Benefitted Receptors and others to attend a meeting associated with the noise wall proposed for a location near them. This enabled them to receive details on the findings from the 69Express Noise Study most pertinent to them, learn about potential solutions to reduce noise impacts and have an opportunity to speak directly with Project team members about the study findings.

Each one voted on whether KDOT should build the proposed noise wall it is recommending for the Benefitted Receptors’ area. Under Federal and KDOT policies, proposed noise walls will be constructed only if approved by the Benefitted Receptors. Only Benefitted Receptors are eligible to vote on noise abatement measures. If 70% of the votes received were “for” a specific noise wall, KDOT included that solution in the upcoming construction project. Find more information on the Resources Tab/Noise Study page.

Type of wall, physical attributes (length, height, etc.), landscaping, location, material, surface design or color.

The eligibility to vote is set by federal regulation.

Environmental Assessment

An Environmental Assessment established a Purpose and Need for the Project and then assessed potential solutions in terms of how well they fulfill the Purpose and Need. The EA initially identified five Purpose and Need criteria for evaluating potential solutions to the problems of U.S. 69 congestion and safety:

  • Improve safety to address crash frequency and severity within the corridor;
  • Reduce congestion and improve traffic operations to meet existing and future travel demands;
  • Promote sustainability by addressing infrastructure conditions and ongoing operations and maintenance needs, supporting environmental stewardship, as well as improving long‐term traveler reliability;
  • Provide flexible choices by promoting a transportation system that accommodates the needs for all users and modes; and
  • Accommodate local and regional growth through coordinated transportation improvements consistent with planned and proposed community land use.

The Project’s EA evaluated impacts of various solutions on climate change, including how the Project will improve safety and congestion, increase transit options and minimize impacts to the natural and built environment.

One of the key criteria within the Alternative Screening Process was limiting impacts to the natural environment. The Express Lanes Alternative most satisfied this requirement while also meeting the project’s Purpose and Need. This Alternative does not mean there will be no impacts to the natural environment. Rather, impacts will be limited and mitigated as best possible within the project constraints.

Within the project area right-of-way, there were wooded areas and scattered trees that could have served as nesting grounds for several migratory bird species and northern long-eared bats. With guidance from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, provisions were made to avoid the displacement or injury of roosts, eggs and nestlings. Because the nesting season generally occurs between April 1 and September 15, the contractor determined it best to remove the trees prior to March 1, well in advance of the nesting season. Completing the tree removal by March 1 became a contractual obligation for the contractor team.

In addition to these efforts, the Design-Build team will be required to inspect each bridge that will be rehabilitated, prior to construction, to ensure that there are no active bird nests or roosts, thus avoiding injury to eggs or nestlings.

For more information, please see Chapter 3 of the Environmental Assessment

The project team is in discussion with the City of Overland Park to identify a solution for future trees and lost foliage.

Regardless of size, trees and shrubbery do not substantially reduce noise from adjacent highways, as noise levels determined by measuring instruments show. If desired, residents can landscape or plant trees on their properties at their convenience. Construction will not impact property, unless acquired as a part of the right-of-way agreement. Additional information on the noise studies completed for this project are available here .

Stay Involved

To submit comments and/or receive more information about the Project, email the Project team at Info@69Express.org.

The best way to learn about Project progress and make your voice heard is by attending the virtual or hybrid public meetings that will take place. Our next meeting will be held prior to the start of construction in early 2023. Groups also may request project presentations through the U.S. 69 Expansion project website at Feedback – 69 Express. Other ways to stay involved include visiting the Project website periodically at 69Express.org and its Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor pages. The Project’s website and social media pages enable you to leave comments for members of the Project team. Team members will respond as soon as possible. You may also sign up for Project updates and newsletters.