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Lee's Summit Council to Ask Voters for $10M for 50/291 Project

Lee's Summit Council to Ask Voters for $10M for 50/291 Project

December 6, 2013

By Mallory Ragon

The Lee's Summit city council approved ballot language for a $10 million general obligations bond issue. Pending an ordinance, it will appear on the ballot for the April 2014 election. It would help fund the reconstruction of the U.S. 50 Highway and M-291 South interchange.

The 291 South/Jefferson Street bridge has been identified by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) as needing to be replaced in the next five years. MoDOT recommended to the city that they could complete that replacement with a similar bridge when the funds become available. It would not be including any expansion of the intersection, which sees frequent congestion issues.

The city asked MoDOT to enter into a partnership to design a new interchange to improve traffic congestion, safety and economic development opportunity. MoDOT provided an initial design concept with a preliminary cost estimate of $10 million. They have since provided a more refined estimate of the project at $16.1 million.

Lee’s Summit can apply for a cost-sharing program, which could provide funding for up to 50% of the total cost.

Applicants will be approved or denied in March 2014. MoDOT looks favorably on applicants whose projects address economic development, safety and congestion components. They also have a strong preference for applicants who already have the funds available, to ensure approved applicants are actually unable to match allocated funds.

To accomplish that, the council will be asking taxpayers for $10 million in bonds, which would cover the projected $8 million the city would be responsible for, assuming MoDOT approves the cost-sharing application.

The council had many questions for a MoDOT representative and city staff, mainly focused on the estimated cost and likelihood of receiving funds through the program as well as the timeline for the project.

There was a lengthy discussion among the council about the amount that should be on the ballot. Since MoDOT would likely require 50% of the $16.1 million, some were inclined to only ask the voters for $8 million. But with the risk of project cost overages (which would be split between MoDOT and the city) or of receiving a commitment of less than 50% from MoDOT, numbers between $8 and $16 million were considered.

Councilmember Bob Johnson moved to change the ballot language to $8 million. The motion failed with Councilmembers Rob Binney, Ed Cockrell, Brian Whitley and Allan Gray voting against.

If the city is approved for a cost-share in March and voters approve the bonds in April, MoDOT would be able to get started right away on the project. If MoDOT were to go ahead with the standard bridge replacement, it would not likely begin until 2017, when they expect to have available funds for such a project.

The bridge replacement itself should take one year; reconstructing the intersection is anticipated to take between three and four years to complete.

The ballot language was approved with a 5-2 vote. Councilmembers Johnson and Dave Mosby voted against; Councilmember Kathy Hofmann was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

The council will still need to vote on an ordinance to put the issue on the ballot. The deadline for getting it on the

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