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Archive for Sunday, May 16, 2010

U.S. 56 replacements back on track

May 16, 2010

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Approval of an $8.2 billion statewide financing plan means drivers on U.S. Highway 56 will need to find a new route between U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence and Baldwin City to the east.

Three years from now. For about six months.

Without question.

“Now that the new transportation program has passed, this is a definite,” said Earl Bosak, area engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “We’ll get in and get out and be done.”

The project — to replace three bridges that are more than 50 years old and cross waters of Tauy Creek — will be among dozens shifted back into gear now that long-term financing is secured.

The work will be moving forward again after the department had shelved, delayed and otherwise postponed a long list of projects designed to improve the safety and efficiency of the state’s transportation network.

While resuming projects at the pace of the previous decade would have required another $11 billion, the new 10-year transportation program — dubbed T-Works — is smaller and “more appropriate for our times,” said Deb Miller, the state’s secretary of transportation.

“It allows the state’s highways to be kept in good condition, provides needed safety improvements and allows the state to invest strategically in economic opportunities,” Miller told transportation supporters after legislators approved bills creating the plan. “Just as importantly, it will create or sustain an estimated 60,000 construction jobs and 175,000 total jobs.”

Among the work to be financed will be the U.S. 56 project in Douglas County. Construction is scheduled to close the highway to through traffic beginning in early 2013, with all three new bridges and other upgrades to be open to the highway’s 3,620 vehicles per day by the time certain leaves start to change color in Baldwin City.

“It will be completed by the Maple Leaf Festival in the fall,” Bosak said.

Money from T-Works will allow the state to do more than build the bridges, a project already estimated to cost $3.8 million. The agreement for hiring a contractor also will include financial incentives to finish the work early, and financial penalties for finishing late.

“There will be a calendar completion date,” Bosak said.

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