Lee’s Summit’s plan to share the cost of rebuilding the U.S. 50 and Missouri 291 South interchange is coming off life support.
The Mid-America Regional Council is poised to allocate $6.8 million in federal funds to the project in response to a request from the city and the Missouri Department of Transportation.
In April, Lee’s Summit voters approved a $10 million bond issue for its share of the project.
The federal money would come from $53 million in expected federal Surface Transportation Program funds spent in 2017 or 2018 on the Missouri side of the region. Those funds are subject to appropriation by Congress.
The Lee’s Summit project was included in a spending plan approved Tuesday by the regional council’s Missouri Priorities Committee after a meeting of members representing cities and counties.
Ron Achelpohl, director of transportation for MARC, said the committee worked on the budget a couple of hours, reducing the amounts allocated to all projects asking for STP money.
The committee trimmed Lee’s Summit’s request of $8 million to $6.8 million. That leaves a $1.2 million gap.
“The hunt for money is still on,” said Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads. “Sometimes you have to keep looking and scratching.”
Rhoads said the city wants to “stick to its guns” on getting about $8 million in matching funds, maybe filling the gap with money from years farther out or from other sources.
He said that while the city is authorized to issue $10 million in bonds, it wants to reserve money for construction overruns or if the land costs more than expected.
The city will meet with MoDOT for more planning once the MARC money is certain.
MoDOT had planned to replace the aging bridge at the interchange, but Lee’s Summit officials lobbied for a redesigned interchange to fix congestion and to promote economic development.
The committee’s recommendation goes on to MARC’s Total Transportation Policy Committee and then to the MARC board for the final approval in October.
The committee or MARC’s executive board can change the plan if it doesn’t meet the regional council’s overall goals or if a city or county challenges this week’s decision.
“That would be pretty unusual,” Achelpohl said. “The recommendation that was made was unanimous.”
Lee’s Summit leaders have been on a roller coaster trying to move ahead with the interchange.
The state had committed to funding around half of the cost but has found it difficult to fulfill that promise.
First, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, which governs MoDOT, canceled the department’s cost-sharing program due to lack of funds.
State officials said they’d find a new funding source, making application for the federal surface transportation money. At the same time, MoDOT left the project off its spending list under a proposed three-quarter-cent statewide sales tax for transportation.
The state added the interchange project after an outcry from the Lee’s Summit community. Then the tax failed in the Aug. 5 election.
Dena Mezger, the city’s interim director of public works, said the MARC money could allow the city to go ahead with design and land acquisition “fairly soon” so it is ready to start building once it’s determined how to fully fund construction.
Because the project involves a state bridge and highway, the city will be coordinating with the state, deciding who manages the project and establishing a schedule and starting date.