Baldwin City Fears were calmed as a long-range plan for a 22-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 56 was unveiled to residents Thursday night.
Officials with the Kansas Department of Transportation and members of TranSystems, a consulting firm hired to study needs along U.S. 56 from U.S. Highway 59 to Interstate 35, answered questions during an open house at Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.
The study projected possible needs along the highway through 2040.
Their answers left many of the more than 100 people who attended relieved that the proposed Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Intermodal transportation hub near Gardner won’t dump an unbearable amount of diesel truck traffic through Baldwin City. The shipping hub would take freight from rail cars and place it on semitrailer trucks for further delivery.
“One thing that surprised me was the small amount of truck traffic that’s going to be on U.S. 56 with the intermodal,” said Lowell Stansberry, who has lived south of the highway east of Baldwin City for many years.
If the hub is built, it could result in as many as 60,000 trucks leaving the facility every day. But only around 1,000 would be headed through Baldwin City, according to projections in the year 2040. Currently, 280 trucks make the trip through the city on a daily basis.
Fears had also been raised about U.S. 56 being widened to four lanes. However, those four lanes start at County Road 1900 and end at High Street and are there only if industrial development occurs on that stretch in the next 30 years.
It’s one of only three stretches of U.S. 56 that could be widened to four lanes. The others are in Edgerton and Gardner in Johnson County. The remainder of the highway would stay as is, although the areas coming into Baldwin City could be changed to three lanes, the middle lane for making turns, as is already the case inside the city limits.
None of the changes will occur if development of industrial and residential areas doesn’t happen. KDOT has no current timetable to implement the study’s findings.