Issue 2   |   March 30, 2021

The 69Express Project is looking at several options for improving U.S. 69 to respond to the growing economic impacts of — and mounting public frustration around — traffic congestion. The alternative that ultimately is selected will be one that does the better job of:

  • Reducing traffic congestion;
  • Improving travel quality;
  • Increasing trip-time predictability;
  • Shortening incident response times for emergency personnel; and
  • Providing a greener, healthier commute by reducing the time vehicles idle in traffic jams.

Congestion Feels Particularly Bad Today
Traffic congestion is a defining element of U.S. 69 in Overland Park, with travel time from one end of the corridor to the other expected to double or more by 2040 if nothing is done. That translates into more than 130 additional hours of commuting each year for someone traveling through the corridor to and from work. And that higher level of commuting can also mean poorer healthgreater unhappiness and
Photo credit / University of California
Despite recent COVID-19 impacts, long-term growth along the corridor is expected to occur. Area traffic is growing again, although it remains below the 2020 pre-COVID peak; for example, January traffic volumes south of 135th Street were 5% below the same period in 2018 (the year used due to 2019 construction work affecting traffic volumes). And it is likely that U.S. 69 volume will continue growing over time, because Overland Park is expected to grow to 236,000 people by 2036, a 23.2% increase over its 2018 population. And with the return of a growing economy, it is likely the area will see additional work trips as the workforce grows, more personal trips as disposable income grows and increasing freight and delivery trips to accommodate boosts in economic activity and related disposable income growth. Additional growth also will be driven by corridor-adjacent developments such as Aspiria (the redevelopment of the Sprint/T-Mobile campus), Bluhawk at 167th and U.S. 69 and others.
What U.S. 69 Congestion Looks Like in the Future
The 69Express Project Team is examining what congestion will look like in 2050. (Thirty years is a typical time horizon for comparing the benefits of infrastructure options.) An initial look at southbound weekday travel in 2050, for example, shows that doing nothing today means traffic will slow to about eight mph between College Boulevard and 119th Street. It’s not until 151st Street and south that traffic consistently returns to posted speed limits, and then only intermittently. Analysis of potential traffic under various alternatives is continuing and will be reported to the public when completed.
More General Purpose Lanes Don’t Equal Less Congestion
Historically, the solution for congestion has been to add more free capacity by building additional lanes. Studies have shown this only reduces congestion in the short term before traffic returns to and begins to exceed previous levels, generating demand for even more lanes, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2019 Urban Mobility Report. That’s why transportation agencies nationally are looking harder at other strategies that balance traffic across all lanes of a highway or that induce people to increase the occupancy of their vehicles, travel outside of peak travel periods or shift to public transit, thus reducing pressure to add lanes. Some of the most common strategies include: 
Reversible lanes – Reversible lanes make sense on busy arterial roads and highways that experience regular, significant imbalances in traffic demand by direction during specific peak periods so that excess capacity in one direction can be used in the other direction. For example, all traffic on a reversible lane would travel in one direction during morning rush hour. (This video from the Georgia Department of Transportation illustrates how reversible lanes are implemented in Georgia.) A reversible-lanes solution is not a viable congestion-management option on U.S. 69 because traffic volumes on the roadway are high in both directions during peak travel times. 
High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes – HOV lanes are reserved for vehicles with more than one occupant. However, because the percentage of commuters carpooling continues to decline, according to the most recent U.S. Census data available, despite federal transportation policy encouraging carpooling for the last 40 years, HOV lanes’ effectiveness has been questioned in recent years, causing many states to abandon them.
Photo credit / The Dallas Morning News
High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes – HOT lanes require that single-occupant vehicles pay a toll for use. Cars with more than one occupant either pay a reduced toll or no toll. On U.S. 69, HOT lanes won’t significantly reduce congestion because not enough people carpool. The highway has high single-occupancy traffic volume; multiple occupancy studies by the Mid-America Regional Council found that average vehicle occupancy on U.S. 69 hovered between 1.12 and 1.22 per car, despite a 22% increase in fuel prices during the same period.
Express toll lanes are being used more broadly across the country in recognition of their ability to “better manage the flow of traffic on existing facilities by regulating demand, separating traffic streams and utilizing available capacity.” The toll rate goes up or down as traffic increases (such as during rush hour or other peak traffic times) or decreases to keep the toll lane — as well as the untolled lanes — flowing more smoothly. Offering a consistently free-flowing lane at all times reduces pressure to build additional highway lanes in the future. This ensures that no further expansion is needed until all available capacity has been utilized. 
Are There Other Solutions?
To develop a safe, sensible and cost-effective approach to improving U.S. 69, the 69Express Project Team is looking at a broad range of future-need scenarios (low, medium and large growth in the area) and potential improvement strategies (transit, technology, traffic management systems and improvements to local streets and the highway, including simply adding more general-purpose lanes). As results are generated, they will be shared with the public.
But solving U.S. 69 congestion for decades to come is a complex undertaking. If you’d like to see the kinds of strategies and solutions that can go into improving a congested corridor, explore the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) How to Fix Congestion tool. Although available tools, costs and impacts will vary between locations, the TTI tool provides an easy-to-use way to explore congestion management strategies by type, cost, time to implement, geographic impact or who is responsible for implementing them.
Attend the Next Public Meeting!
Attend the next 69Express public meeting opportunities and learn more about it and the alternatives under study for improving the corridor. With health and safety in mind, the opportunities include a:
  • Virtual Public Information Open House — Friday, April 16 – Friday, April 30 
  • Live Virtual Public Meeting — Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 5:00–7:00 p.m.
Both opportunities will provide the same content and participants will have the ability to submit questions and comments to the Project Team. The virtual public information open house is available online 24 hours a day. The live virtual public meeting will include a presentation by the Project Team followed by a question and answer session. You can join either or both by visiting and following the links provided to view the content and participate from your own computers, tablets, or smartphones.

Visit to learn more about the
U.S. 69 Corridor Modernization and Expansion Project.