Douglas County officials are buying their way toward a safer Stull Road west of Lawrence.
County commissioners already have approved spending $141,420 to buy access to 26 properties along both sides of the road, formally known as County Road 442.
The land deals called right-of-way easements will make way for widening and reconstruction of portions of a 2.3-mile stretch of Stull Road west of County Route 1029. The $1.9 million construction job is expected to begin in September and be finished in the spring.
County officials need to secure only two more easements, with those deals expected to close by month's end.
"There's been a big push to get this finished up," said Keith Browning, the county's director of Public Works. "We're just about there."
The project is designed to improve safety along Stull Road by improving drivers' sight lines, mostly by shaving the tops off hills and filling the depths of valleys. Crews also will add shoulders and create roadside ditches that slope gently to the side, making off-road ventures less perilous for drivers.
The road, which serves both rural residents and commuters traveling between Lawrence and Topeka, carries about 3,600 vehicles a day.
To get room to make the changes, county officials had to negotiate with property owners not only for access to the land, but in some cases to cover the costs of damages. One tract went for as little as $600, but another cost the county $22,365 mostly because the construction will force relocation of a home's septic system.
Other property owners were compensated for the inevitable loss of ornamental trees, relocation of fencing and other effects of construction.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is picking up 80 percent of the estimated $1.9 million construction tab for the project. The county will pay the remaining 20 percent, plus cover costs for acquiring land, relocating some utilities and other related work.
During construction, the section of Stull Road will be closed to through traffic, Browning said.