County agrees to pay for half of traffic signal

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

The Leavenworth County government will pay only half of the cost of installing a traffic signal at 20th Street and Eisenhower Road.

County commissioners made that decision when they met Wednesday. The decision came as commissioners approved a construction bid for improvements to a section of the Eisenhower Road project. The traffic light had been requested as part of the project.

The decision to pay for only half of the cost of the traffic signal places the burden of paying the remaining cost on either the city of Leavenworth and Lansing or both cities.

The Eisenhower Road project, which will widen a section of the street, was promised by county commissioners when voters approved the renewal of a countywide sales tax in 2015.

The intersection of 20th Street and Eisenhower Road has been a source of contention between the County Commission and city of Leavenworth.

Leavenworth city officials contend a 2016 agreement between the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing and the county government calls for the county to pay for the installation of a traffic signal at that intersection.

Lansing city officials reportedly are supportive of this position.

The 2016 agreement, which was drawn up for the Eisenhower Road project, states “appropriate and necessary traffic signals, including at 20th and Eisenhower, and signage shall be installed under the project.”

In 2018, the city filed a lawsuit against the county after county commissioners voted to build a roundabout at the intersection.

County commissioners ultimately abandoned plans for the roundabout and a judge dismissed the lawsuit.

The traffic signal was not included in the base bid for the Eisenhower Road project. But county officials solicited bids for the traffic light as an alternative, or add-on, for the project.

King’s Construction, Oskaloosa, submitted the low bid for the project. The company submitted a base bid of $5.88 million.

Bill Noll, infrastructure and construction services director for the county, said an earlier engineer’s estimate for the base bid had been $7.17 million.

King’s Construction submitted a bid of $260,950 for the traffic signal. The engineer’s estimate had been $300,000.

The county also had accepted alternate bids for constructing a sidewalk on the south side of Eisenhower Road. But Noll said, while the sidewalk had been discussed, the Lansing City Council never put forth a formal request for the sidewalk.

Commissioners decided not to approve the bid for the south sidewalk. They ended up approving the base bid and agreed to pay for half of the cost of the alternate bid for the traffic signal.

The project does call for sidewalk on the north side of Eisenhower Road.

And Noll said land on the south side of the street will be graded to accommodate the construction of a sidewalk in the future.

Commissioner Mike Stieben argued against paying for either of the alternate bids. By not paying for the south sidewalk and the traffic signal, he said the county would save a total $432,750, which can be used for other projects.

County officials said a traffic study of the intersection did not find that a traffic signal is needed.

“This is a significant amount of money for something that is not needed,” Stieben said.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said taxpayers in Leavenworth and Lansing supported the renewal of the sales tax. And she said the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing have requested the traffic signal.

“I believe we should respect the request of the city of Leavenworth and the city of Lansing,” she said.

Commissioner Chad Schimke noted that the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing are the two largest tax bases in the county. He said it will be cheaper to install the signal during the road project than to wait until sometime in the future.

Culbertson argued the traffic study does not support the signal.

“I’m just going off the traffic study,” he said.

Stieben said the money saved by not installing the traffic signal and south sidewalk can go toward major projects.

Kaaz argued the Eisenhower Road project “is a major project for Leavenworth County and future growth of Leavenworth County.”

County Administrator Mark Loughry noted that the base bid for the project was significantly lower than the engineer’s estimate. Even with the addition of the traffic signal, he said, the cost of the project is still more than $1 million lower than what was expected.

Kaaz argued the cost of the traffic signal was worth the goodwill that would be developed between the county and the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing.

Culbertson made a motion for the county to pay for only half the cost of the signal. This motion was seconded by Stieben.

The motion was approved 3-2 with Kaaz and Schimke voting against it.

Following the meeting, Leavenworth City Manager Paul Kramer said city officials will review all of their options.

Kramer said the position of the city that the county is responsible for installing the signal has not changed.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved a new comprehensive plan for the county with some changes requested by commissioners.

• Approved a resolution to place a stop sign at 246th Street and Knight Road.