Archive for Friday, January 30, 2009

Farmers Turnpike project awaits stimulus help

January 30, 2009


Douglas County officials are putting the brakes on plans for rebuilding a busy stretch of the Farmers Turnpike northwest of Lawrence, hoping to grab a slice of whatever “economic recovery” plan emerges from lawmakers in Washington.

County officials have canceled a Feb. 10 meeting that had been scheduled for accepting bids from contractors wanting to land the estimated $2.6 million job. The project calls for rebuilding a 2.3-mile stretch of the Farmers Turnpike, from the South Lawrence Trafficway west to County Road 1029, which heads north to Lecompton.

It’s not that the project isn’t needed, or that the county doesn’t have the money — although, given the current economic situation, spending priorities could change, said Keith Browning, county engineer and director of public works. The stretch still carries about 4,300 vehicles a day, ranking it among the busiest county-maintained roads.

But officials are awaiting a multibillion-dollar economic recovery plan that is making its way through Capitol Hill, a package that could pump millions of dollars into transportation projects in the state.

Some of that money could trickle down to Douglas County, and officials want to be in a position to soak it up.

“With this project, we’re ready,” Browning said. “We’ve got plans done. We’ve got utilities moved. We’ve got right-of-way acquired. We’re ready.

“It’s as ‘shovel ready’ as any project could be.”

Of course, the Kansas Department of Transportation has its own list of $1.36 billion in projects lined up for potential federal financing, including one that would be located in Douglas County: building a $10 million interchange at the trafficway and Bob Billings Parkway. Another would add two lanes to six miles of Kansas Highway 10, either in Douglas or Johnson County, for $100 million.

But the county’s project still could get a piece of the federal funds, at least as far as KDOT officials are concerned.

“They think the project itself is worthy of federal aid,” said Browning, who has met with KDOT representatives on the issue. “They’ve committed to sharing a portion of that economic recovery money with local governments, but they haven’t determined what that percentage is.”

Added Terese Gorman, the county’s engineering division manager: “We’ve got our foot in the door.”

The reconstruction project is designed to improve traffic safety and improve the road’s strength for handling rising levels of traffic, Browning said. The two-lane stretch would be rebuilt to resemble County Road 1029, which heads to Lecompton.

Paved shoulders would be added on each side, and the slopes leading down from the road’s sides would be made less steep, Browning said. The road’s hills also would be lowered and existing dips would be filled in to improve sight lines for drivers.

The county already has spent nearly $100,000 to acquire property — all of it along the north side of the road — needed to make way for the reconstruction.

Once under contract, Browning said, the project likely would take about eight months to complete.

“That would get us finished up by the time it starts getting cold in the fall,” he said.


janeyb 9 years, 3 months ago

Right now the "economic recovery" package is only putting 12 cents on the dollar toward infrastructure with the rest going to social programs, unemployment compensation, mortgage assistance and tax refunds (even to people who don't pay any taxes). With Sam Brownback running for governor and fighting the Gitmo prisoners moving to Ft. Leavenworth, how much of the money do you think the GOP state of Kansas will get? Maybe Kathleen could pull some in by running for Senator---or will she opt to take a post in the Obama Administration and say "Kansas: as screwed as you think".

Richard Heckler 9 years, 3 months ago

Adding more miles of roads increases our cost of living on the other end of this deal. Seems we have plenty existing old infrastructure that needs repair before we add more to our tax bills.

somebodynew 9 years, 3 months ago

Merrill - do you read the articles or do research before you post. (OK silly question) This is not adding more miles of roads - the road already exists, but is in great need of improvement for SAFETY reasons. Does that qualify for your second sentence??? This project has been planned before but put off due to money reasons, but now it is ready to go. You can just look at my front yard to see the utility progress.

average 9 years, 3 months ago

Merrill, paved shoulders on this stretch of the Farmer's Turnpike, connecting the already-shouldered part nearer Lecompton to the existing SLT bike trail, would significantly improve the ridership and safety of cycling to Perry Lake. This one really ought to be up your alley.

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