Oskaloosa Concern about the possibility of bypassing Kansas Highway 92 around Oskaloosa is premature, a Kansas Department of Transportation official says, adding that a bypass is only one of two options under consideration.
"Our agency has a 5-year improvement plan, and projects are generated statewide based on need," said James Brewer, state road office engineering manager. "Those with the greatest need are incorporated into the plan. K-92 at Oskaloosa is one of those."
KDOT representatives met with city and Jefferson County officials in late February and early March to explain that the state was studying options for reconstructing K-92, Brewer said.
The office evaluated seven alternatives and narrowed the field to two plans. One calls for upgrading the 4.3-mile existing highway from the bottom of McCarter's Hill east to Oskaloosa's west city limits. The other plan would reconstruct the existing highway starting at the bottom of McCarter's Hill to about 1.5 miles west of town. At the point where the road currently takes a sharp south turn, engineers would construct a new highway heading north and east to connect with U.S. Highway 59 just north of Oskaloosa, Brewer said.
RUMORS apparently spread through town that KDOT intended to reroute the highway around Oskaloosa, or create a temporary solution to problems on the existing route if the alternative plan meets with opposition.
"We want to stress that either route selected will be a fully reconstructed highway," said Anita Reese Helt, KDOT public information chief.
Regardless of where the highway ends up, it will have two 12-foot lanes and 8-foot shoulders, she said.
If the existing route is selected, engineers will replace the bridge over Slough Creek, address drainage problems and relax curves and flatten hills to help motorists see farther ahead on the road, said Brewer.
A number of social, economic, environmental and historical issues will be taken into consideration, she said, and Oskaloosans will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the project before KDOT chooses a plan. The study still is in the preliminary stage, and the agency won't make a decision without holding a public meeting to solicit input, he said.
In fact, bidding on the project is scheduled for December 1994, with construction to get under way in spring 1995.
BREWER SAID both plans have advantages and disadvantages.
"We, and I hope the community, will take a broad look at what is wished for Oskaloosa," he said. "Whatever we do now has to be a considered approach for what's best for the city not only now, but in the future. There are many trade-offs."
Donna Kolojaco, president of the Oskaloosa Chamber of Commerce, said business owners in town are vehemently opposed to a bypass and will take every possible step to prevent it.
"We feel that if 92 bypasses the town, we will just dry up and blow away and the businesses will definitely suffer," she said, citing a survey that estimated a bypass would cost the city 50 percent of its traffic.
Kolojaco said the chamber is surveying Oskaloosa residents and business owners regarding the highway plans. Three petitions expressing opposition to a bypass also are being circulated, and city officials plan to contact state and federal representatives to voice concern, she said.
Mike Crow, a KDOT representative, will be on hand to answer questions at the chamber's meeting at noon May 7 at The Kitchen in Oskaloosa.