LCDC calls for regional transportation study

John RIchmeier

When they met Thursday, members of the Leavenworth County Development Corporation Board of Directors discussed whether their organization should formally support a proposal for an additional Missouri River bridge in the county.

In the end, LCDC board members voted for their president to draft a letter recommending a regional transportation study for the county.

The vote came after board members discussed what is commonly referred to as the Eastern Gateway project.

The project, which has been proposed by the Leavenworth County Commission, would provide a connection between Eisenhower Road in Leavenworth County and Missouri 152 Highway in Platte County, Missouri. The project would require the construction of a bridge across the Missouri River.

Leavenworth County already has one bridge that stretches across the Missouri River and connects to Platte County, Missouri – the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth.

A concept study has been completed for the Eastern Gateway project. That study estimated the cost of the project to be between $250 million and more than $300 million.

County commissioners have discussed the possibility of a public-private partnership for the project. Last week, commissioners tabled taking action on a feasibility study and hiring legal counsel for the project until early December.

Commissioners are planning to discuss the project next week during a work session.

Greg Kaaz, chairman of the Leavenworth County Port Authority, discussed the project with LCDC board members during Thursday’s meeting. The Port Authority and LCDC are partner organizations.

Kaaz said he does not want to prevent the project. He said Leavenworth and Lansing need access to interstates.

But Kaaz said it makes a lot of sense to do a regional transportation study for the county.

Matt Schmitz, Lansing’s community and economic development director, also participated in Thursday’s LCDC meeting.

He said the Lansing City Council has expressed support for the Eastern Gateway project.

But Schmitz said he believes the Eastern Gateway project and a regional transportation study can be worked on at the same time.

Leavenworth City Manager Paul Kramer said Leavenworth city officials have recommended a regional transportation study, but county commissioners have shown no desire to be involved.

LCDC President Harland Russell said the Eastern Gateway project is exciting. But Russell said the county needs a regional transportation plan.

“We need to get a plan put together,” he said.

He argued that not having a plan in place puts Leavenworth County at a disadvantage when requesting funding from the Kansas Department of Transportation or the Mid-America Regional Council, which distribute federal transportation funding.

He said a regional transportation study shows local governments can come together and have a priority for transportation.

“At the end of the day, the study may very well support a bridge,” Russell said.

LCDC Vice President Josh Hoppes made a motion that a letter be drafted in support of a regional transportation study, and the motion was approved by the board.

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