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City, county go halfsies on Airport Road
Joint application seeks funds to resurface three-mile stretch
airport road pic
The City of Great Bend and Barton County are discussing repairs to Airport Road (SW 40 Avenue). - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

In a show of unity between the City of Great Bend and Barton County, the City Council Monday night approved backing a cost-share application to resurface SW 40 Avenue between U.S. 56 and West Barton County Road, also known as Airport Road.

“Historically, the city and the county have not been the best partners,” County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz told the council. “This is a chance to come together and do something important.”

It was a unanimous council that approved supporting the county’s application. This cooperation should make the application stronger.

Since the road is split between the two entities, the two would split $216,250, which is 25% of the estimated $865,000 mill and overlay project. But, it is not a sure thing and there is a competitive application process, City Administrator Kendal Francis said.

“The state Legislature approved a one-time $50 million transfer from the State General Fund to the State Highway Fund,” he said. “The Legislature approved use of this funding on transportation projects, but only if the investment can be grown with city and county contributions.”

The Barton County Commission wants to apply to use this cost-share program for the road. An equal cost share would equate to $108,125 a piece for construction. 

In addition, a rough estimate for design fees would be around $20,000 depending on what the Kansas Department of Transportation requires. That would be an additional $10,000 a piece for that cost, meaning the potential amount for each party would be just shy of $120,000. 

A shared road

“We think this road is mutually beneficial,” County Engineer Barry McManaman said. However, the heavy traffic hauling wind turbine parts and rock to the city’s transload facility have taken a toll. 

Most of this three-mile stretch is split between the city and county. Roughly, the south-bound lanes fall within the city limits surrounding the Municipal Airport and industrial park, and the north-bound lanes within the county.

The southern city limits end at SW 20 Road. But, since the city limits line along the road’s center is technically just over the center line, most of the total surface area falls inside the city.

“We’re at the point we need to do something with this road,” McManaman said. It needs to be repaired no later than next year.

In the past, Schartz said, the county has maintained the road. It falls in the county’s five-year rotation for routine resurfacing.

But, like the city, the county is under budget constraints and that is why they looked at this program, she said. “When things are tight, we need to pull together.”

“While there is merit to their reasoning, funding will be a challenge as we have already committed $1.1 million to our own cost-share project,” Francis said. He was referring to the city’s application for the same cost-share program to cover the resurfacing of most of 10th Street.

The city is tapping reserves and balances available in road funds for this, and Francis was concerned about stretching city resources too far. “But, we could dig a little bit deeper.”