U.S. 69 from just south of 151st Street to just north of 103rd Street in Overland Park, Kansas, will be widened from four to six lanes (three lanes in each direction), and interchanges that connect U.S. 69 to the local street network will be modified. The new lanes will be tolled (also called express toll lanes) to provide additional long-term safety, traffic flow and trip time reliability benefits on the highway. The existing general-purpose lanes will remain free.
Express toll lanes are a strategy for improving congestion and travel time reliability. Express toll lanes enable drivers to choose if they want to pay a toll to achieve more reliable travel time by driving in the free-flowing express lanes. This has the added benefit of also reducing congestion in the toll-free general-purpose lanes. The toll rate changes 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.
How Express Toll Lanes Work
1. TOLL SIGN
Toll signs display the current price, which is adjusted based on the level of congestion in the express toll lane to maintain free-flow traffic.
2. ENTRY AND EXIT
A break in the double white line shows drivers where they can enter and exit the express toll lane.
3. TOLLING TECHNOLOGY
Trips in the express toll lane are recorded electronically and tolls assessed based on the toll rate at that time.
Express Toll Lanes Configuration
A third lane in each direction, the express lanes, will be constructed on the inside of the existing lanes, where the median and green space exist today. Lanes will be constructed at this location to take advantage of the right-of-way already owned by KDOT. The express lane will be separated from the existing lanes using a buffer and marked with a wide double stripe. Northbound and southbound traffic will be separated by a concrete barrier.
Why Use Express Toll Lanes
Kansas has many serious transportation needs that must be addressed, and state funding is limited. State dollars will be the primary source of funding to improve U.S. 69, but local contributions help advance important projects more quickly and help ensure that such projects more fully meet local transportation needs. Express toll lanes offer a funding solution for Overland Park’s local contribution. Revenue collected from tolls will reimburse KDOT for the initial construction investment of the new lanes over the next 20 or 30 years.
In addition to funding the local contribution, express toll lanes are a proven congestion management tool that can better address congestion and trip reliability as traffic grows over time.
Express Toll Lanes Congestion Management
The ETL toll price is set based on traffic conditions, increasing and decreasing as traffic volume changes.
The cost is calculated to motivate some drivers to choose the express toll lane, paying more to achieve better travel time predictability.
As those drivers choose to pay the toll and move into an express lane, congestion in the general-purpose lanes eases, too.
Kansas Tolling Legislation Requirements
In 2019, the Kansas Legislature passed new tolling legislation that includes the following requirements:
- Existing lanes cannot be tolled.
- Tolling can only be collected on new lanes.
- Tolls collected on a roadway can only be used on that roadway.
- KDOT cannot toll a roadway without community support.
- Communities have to ask KDOT to request tolling be evaluated further.
Express Toll Lanes Pricing
The objective of express toll lanes is to manage congestion on U.S. 69. To achieve that goal, toll rates must be carefully balanced with the level of traffic. If tolls are priced too high or too low, the roadway will not operate as desired.
If tolls are set too high — higher than drivers are willing to pay — then very few will use the express toll lanes. As shown in the top line of the graphic to the right, the express toll lane is nearly empty, and the general-purpose lanes become congested.
If the tolls are set too low, as shown in the middle graphic, too many drivers will use the express toll lanes and all lanes will become congested. Performance is the same as it would be with one additional general-purpose (toll-free) lane on U.S. 69.
When pricing is set correctly, the right number of drivers use the express toll lanes. Traffic is removed from the toll-free general-purpose lanes, and the express lanes remain free flowing.
RATES TO KEEP TRAFFIC MOVING IN ALL LANES
Setting Rates to Manage Congestion
Balancing toll rates to manage congestion means that the rates vary based on the level of traffic. Shown in the graphic at right are example costs anticipated for express toll lane trips on U.S. 69. The express toll lane rates vary based on time of day and whether a user is driving the full, six-mile length of the corridor (151st Street to just north of 103rd Street) or just a portion of the corridor.
For example, if someone drives the entire length of the corridor northbound during the morning rush hour, that trip could cost $1.50. If someone only drives a portion of the corridor, say from 151st Street to 119th Street, that partial-length trip could cost $0.50.
During off-peak times — mid-day, nighttime and weekends — the rates drop significantly because less traffic is using the highway. The rates drop to approximately $0.30 for a partial trip and $0.65 for a full-length trip.
In the southbound direction during afternoon rush hour, the rates increase again as traffic increases. The rates are slightly higher in the afternoon because there is more congestion during the afternoon than in the morning rush hour.
RATES TO MANAGE CONGESTION — 151ST STREET TO 103RD STREET
Users Have Choices
Looking southbound, one of the most frequent trips users make is from the north end of the corridor — coming from downtown, for example — to the exit at 135th Street. During the afternoon rush hour, that trip could cost $1.00. But outside the peak period — on a weekend, when the same driver is rushing to get to the soccer park for a game, for instance — that trip could cost $0.35.
U.S. 69 Toll Rates Would Be Lower Than the National Average
For U.S. 69, toll rates during the peak periods likely would be between $0.25 and $0.32 per mile, depending on the traveler’s direction. These rates are well below the national average of $0.56 per mile – which is to be expected because Overland Park experiences lower levels of congestion than Houston, Miami or cities in California do. Therefore, toll rates can be set lower on U.S. 69 and still ensure trip reliability.
RATES COVER COSTS AND MANAGE CONGESTION — U.S. 69 WILL BE BELOW THE NATIONAL AVERAGE
The U.S. 69 Corridor Modernization and Expansion Project involves a comprehensive process for determining how best to improve the corridor. The schedule below shows when some of the most significant Project activities have occurred and will continue forward.