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Archive for Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Officials gather in Franklin County to mark completion of that county’s portion of U.S. Highway 59 rebuild

More than 100 supporters gathered in Ottawa Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a portion of U.S. 59 in Franklin County. The Douglas County portion of the road is still far from done.

June 16, 2010

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— Drivers along a new U.S. 59 freeway are enjoying additional lanes, paved shoulders, lengthy on-ramps, a 70 mph speed limit and the overall comfort and security that come with a $63.5 million investment in upgraded transportation.

Too bad drivers in Douglas County will need to wait more than two years for the benefits to reach closer to home.

“When I’m driving down to Baldwin City — we have some work down there — I’m wishing for that new road,” said Aron Cromwell, a Lawrence city commissioner. “It’d be nice to have that completed. We’re anxious to have as nice a road up in Douglas County as they have here in Franklin County.”

Highway opening: Gov. Mark Parkinson

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson assesses his chances for financing completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway by the time he leaves office in January. Enlarge video

Highway opening: Deb Miller

Deb Miller, Kansas secretary of transportation, explains how the South Lawrence Trafficway project fits into the upcoming $1.7 billion state transportation program. Enlarge video

Completion of the new U.S. 59 — the $103.2 million, 11.1-mile stretch in Douglas County — remains set for late 2012, even as Cromwell and more than 100 officials, supporters and others gathered Wednesday morning in Ottawa to celebrate the official opening of the nearly 9-mile-long section in Franklin County.

Gov. Mark Parkinson hailed the finished section as a major safety improvement that will be expected to drive economic-development efforts in Ottawa, Franklin County and elsewhere in northeast Kansas.

Such progress, he said, will continue as the state embarks on its upcoming transportation plan, one expected to spend $1.7 billion on projects during the next decade.

“It’s economic development when we build the road, but more important than that is all the businesses and city expansions that happen around good roads,” Parkinson said after the event inside an American Eagle Outfitters Distribution Center in Ottawa. “It’s really one of the reasons that I think Kansas is in an economic position that’s better than most other states.”

Deb Miller, the state’s secretary of transportation, said the state’s previous transportation program had enabled the combined U.S. 59 project — but that the state’s ongoing financial pressures had pushed some projects behind schedule.

The U.S. 59 section in Douglas County fit that description, in terms of construction staging, Miller said. But other difficulties, including concerns and adjustments made in regard to soil conditions, also added up to delays.

“But we’ve got construction going on,” Miller said. “I always tell people it’s like remodeling a kitchen: It’s unpleasant and ugly as can be in the middle of it, but — man — once it’s finished, you kind of forget those bad days.”

Comments

Seamus 3 years, 10 months ago

Aron Cromwell installs solar panels for a living and makes a fuss about living in an "active and passive" solar home, yet is gung-ho about this new road. More proof that the Baby Boom generation are nothing more than clueless hypocrites. What does he expect will happen? That we'll all be driving solar-powered cars in 5 years?

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Ken Lassman 3 years, 10 months ago

Nobody questioned the need for replacing the old highway with a new one--it was dangerous and had one of the highest death rates of any road in Kansas. The controversy around 59 was caused by KDOT's original plan to construct it one mile to the east of the current alignment, which needlessly condemned much good farmland to asphalt and sprawl-induced destruction. After much protest over that and their arrogant attitude toward local input, KDOT moved the alignment over to 300 feet east of the current alignment. The 59 on 59 group was pressing for expanding it right on the existing road in order to avoid needless destruction of farmland and habitat, but KDOT didn't go for that and hence the current compromise alignment.

The new safer design will also do several other things, tho. With the NAFTA highway from Laredo TX to Winnipeg still being pushed (this is what is planned for I-35), combined with plans to build a huge intermodal transfer station in Gardner-Edgerton, you can expect a huge increase in truck traffic from Mexico and flow/trained in from the port in L.A. When congestion is bad in the KC metro area along I-35 (annd when is it NOT bad?), expect northbound traffic from the south to use Highway 59 as a KC bypass, getting back onto I29 or I35 north of KC via I-70 and 435. KDOT denied that this would be a big deal, but you can bet it will be.

If they don't complete the south Lawrence Trafficway, the trucks will take the west leg of the SLT to get onto i-70. If they complete the east leg, they'll go east to get onto I-70 at Tonganoxie. Either way, learn to love the smell of diesel.

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BigPrune 3 years, 10 months ago

Douglas County back burner always and forever. We don't appreciate help from the state in regards to roads. For the punishment of our local vocal lunatic minority, Ottawa gets their 4-lane 59 Highway because of American Eagle Outfitters, we get to wait a few years. Thanks Earth Nazis! :)

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Blessed4x 3 years, 10 months ago

The new road is quite nice and much safer than the 20 miles of death that the old alignment represented. I for one am very glad for this construction.

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Pete_Schweti 3 years, 10 months ago

...but at least we got to keep our man-made mosquito-swamp.

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ralphralph 3 years, 10 months ago

This will greatly ease access to the SLT's overpass-to-nowhere.

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