Accident-fearing drivers on Wellman Road are about to get some shoulders to veer on.
Gravel shoulders will be added next year to both sides of a 5.8-mile stretch of the road, from the Douglas-Jefferson County line north to 54th Road.
The stretch carries about 2,800 vehicles per day, providing a route that helps connect Lawrence with McLouth, Oskaloosa, Winchester and other communities north of town. The section of two-lane road averages 16 injury accidents a year, making it a prime candidate for safety-enhancing upgrades.
The 6-foot-wide shoulders -- plus a few new guardrails and drainage culverts -- fit the bill.
"If you drop off the shoulder, there's no recovery zone," said Ron Karn, road and bridge superintendent for Jefferson County. "Now you'll be able to wake up and catch back onto the road."
Sheriff's deputies also will have room to pull over drivers suspected of speeding. The road is posted for a 55 mph limit, Karn said, but many drivers speed through the undulations, curves and blind intersections that make the road so dicey -- especially at night.
"It's going to be a real benefit for the county to have this done," he said.
The bulk of the $1.42 million project is being financed by the Kansas Department of Transportation as part of its safety-enhancement program. The department is paying 90 percent of construction costs, leaving Jefferson County officials to pick up payments for engineering, land acquisition, relocation of utilities and other tasks.
Construction is expected to begin next spring and be finished by November 2004, Karn said.
Survey crews have been staking out properties slated to be in the path of construction. Preliminary calculations show that the county will need to acquire 13.4 acres split into 89 parcels with 42 different owners.
The smallest lot is the size of a city bus, while the largest would hold a football field -- or at least one stretched at both ends.
"It's a lot of little strips of land," Karn said. "What we're trying to do is provide a safety lane -- basically, where you can pull off. We're not trying to disrupt the land any more than we need to."