County agrees to pay for traffic light

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

It looks like a traffic light will be installed at the intersection of 20th Street and Eisenhower Road as part of a county project.

County commissioners previously voted to pay for only half of the installation of the traffic light as part of an Eisenhower Road improvement project. But commissioners voted Wednesday to approve a change order to pay the entire cost of the traffic light, which is $260,950.

The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Mike Stieben voting against the motion.

The city of Leavenworth will be responsible for the maintenance of the traffic light once the project is completed.

The Eisenhower Road project, which will widen a section of the road from west of 13th Street to County Road 5, 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 have argued 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.

The 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.

On Oct. 28, commissioners approved a construction bid of $5.88 million for the Eisenhower Road project. This bid did not include the traffic light. At that time, commissioners voted to pay only half of the cost of the traffic light, leaving the remainder of the cost to the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing.

Bill Noll, director of infrastructure and construction services for the county, said Wednesday that the cities had not entered into an agreement to pay the remaining cost of the traffic light.

Commissioner Chad Schimke said he asked for the issue to be brought back before the commission.

Schimke said he wants to work collaboratively with cities in the county instead of having animosity.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said county commissioners basically agreed to pay for the traffic light if bids for the Eisenhower Road project were less than what had been estimated.

“We basically indicated we would pay 100% because it came in under budget,” Kaaz said.

The base bid of $5.88 million was less than an earlier engineer’s estimate for the project, which was $7.17 million. The cost of the traffic light, $260,950, also is less than an earlier engineer’s estimate, which was $300,0000, according to information previously presented to commissioners.

“I believe we need to follow through with what we said we would do,” Kaaz said.

Kaaz said officials with the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing believed the county would install a traffic light as part of the Eisenhower Road project.

“Well that’s because they’re not paying for it,” Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said.

Culbertson said a traffic study indicated the traffic light is not necessary at the intersection of 20th Street and Eisenhower Road.

Kaaz said the county has made other road improvements that were not called for by traffic studies.

Stieben asked Senior County Counselor David Van Parys if there is anything in writing that commits the county to funding the traffic light.

Van Parys noted the 2016 agreement calls for necessary and appropriate traffic signals and signs.

“There may be a difference of opinion between the three parties as to what is appropriate at that intersection,” Van Parys said.

Schimke expressed concern about spending more time and money on lawsuits that may result from the commission’s actions.

Kaaz expressed concern about litigation as well as hard feelings among people in Leavenworth and Lansing.

“We’re not going to have litigation unless we’re sued,” Stieben said.

Stieben said spending money on the traffic signal takes away money that can be spent on other projects.

“We have not been unfair to the city of Leavenworth because we said we would do cost sharing,” Stieben said.

Leavenworth City Manager Paul Kramer said the city of Leavenworth has agreed to take over maintenance of a portion of Eisenhower that lies outside of the city limits once the project is completed. He said this will include snow removal on this section of the roadway.

According to Noll, work on the Eisenhower Road project has started. It is scheduled for completion by the end of December 2021.

Also Wednesday, commissioners approved a proposal from a multinational company called Arup to conduct a feasibility study for what is referred to as the Eastern Gateway project.

The proposed project would connect a roadway in Leavenworth County with Missouri 152 Highway in Platte City, Missouri, through the construction of a bridge across the Missouri River.

Commissioners voted to pay up to $100,000 for the study.

Commissioners have discussed the possibility of the Eastern Gateway project being a private-public partnership.

Noll said without the study, commissioners will not know the viability of a public-private partnership.

“It’s an eight-week study,” he said.

Noll said the study does not obligate the commission to proceed further with the project.

Commissioners also voted to hire the law firm of Ballard and Spahr to provide legal services related to Eastern Gateway project.

The firm will charge $535 per hour, according to information provided by Noll.

Commissioners voted to pay up to $75,000 for the firm’s services.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Voted to approve a special use permit to allow rental agreements for two barns at 23961 211th St.

• Conducted a work session to discuss how to determine the future uses of the former Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital building. The former hospital building in Leavenworth has been donated to the county government.