Archive for Friday, March 16, 2012

U.S. Highway 59 between Lawrence and Baldwin City on schedule

Eli Gomez, a worker with JT Underground, uses a mini excavator to dig a trench for fiber optic cable south of Lawrence, in preparation for the widening of Highway 59 on Monday, March 12, 2012.

Eli Gomez, a worker with JT Underground, uses a mini excavator to dig a trench for fiber optic cable south of Lawrence, in preparation for the widening of Highway 59 on Monday, March 12, 2012.

March 16, 2012


Drivers who take U.S. Highway 59 between Lawrence and Baldwin City will have to wait until November before they’ll be able to pop over to a new, four-lane highway.

“Everything’s up and everything’s on schedule,” said Kim Qualls, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

A 9-mile stretch of the freeway in Franklin County — costing $63.5 million — was completed and ready for use in 2010.

It’s taken a couple more years for the Kansas Department of Transportation to complete a $103.2 million, 11.1-mile stretch in Douglas County, which runs from just south of Lawrence to the Douglas County line.

Some work was completed ahead of schedule, but because of work still remaining, such as grading and paving, the project won’t be completed until November, Qualls said.

The warm — and mostly snow-free — Kansas winter weather wasn’t much help, Qualls said. Because of unpredictable weather, contractors always plan for a winter shutdown from the end of November until March.

When the freeway does open, drivers can expect additional lanes, paved shoulders and lengthy on-ramps.

“I think it’s great news,” said Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell, citing safety concerns about the two-lane portions of U.S. 59. “What we’re doing here is going to make that road safer.”


Jim Johnson 3 years, 8 months ago

Yeah could have made it just as safe for a lot less money by moving it east one half mile. That was stupid!

Clint Church 3 years, 8 months ago

The truckers ought to be happy. That's is who it was built for anyway.

Scott Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

truckers make us all happy. One of the reasons things are cheap in the U.S.

CLARKKENT 3 years, 8 months ago


Jared Paslay 3 years, 8 months ago

spent four years with Ames construction and seen way more cars then Truckers.

jesse499 3 years, 8 months ago

Last time I checked you can't force the ground to settle thats mostly what they were waiting on it has to set a certain time before they can start concrete work.

Jared Paslay 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't think you guys know what it takes to build a highway like that.

Terry Sexton 3 years, 8 months ago

The new 59 is cool. The builders are doing a quality job. The schedule is what it is. I do not think they dawdle.

WTF 3 years, 8 months ago

If Ames Construction is anything like Sema Contruction (which I'm sure they are since the owners are brothers and Sema is Ames backwards) then the work will be subpar.

FlintlockRifle 3 years, 8 months ago

While the contractors are in the area, give them the bid on the east half of or south by-pass, it's just down the road from where they finish hwy 59----------

Mike Ford 3 years, 8 months ago

tell ricky bobby and billy sue that it's a construction zone speed limit area.... they seem oblivious to traffic laws.

Jeremiah Jefferson 3 years, 8 months ago

I think they wasted alot of good days this winter. But when they are working they work hard and it amazes me how much they do get done in such little time (when they are working)

attorney1776 3 years, 8 months ago

Keep in mind the added time for the legal issues. I am told that the KDOE preformed alleged substandard engineering and core sampling through the Pleasant Grove hills that showed a solid rock bed to build on.

The construction company bid on and planned their work techniques on this kind of bedrock foundation.

During actual construction it was discovered that the soil under the Pleasant Grove pass was not solid rock, but loose soil. You cannot put a concrete roadway on this kind of "floating" foundation. It would crack and shift too much.

Therefore, as has been stated in the newspapers, this area of the new highway will now be completed in asphalt which is pliable and adjusts to the underlying soil foundation better.

KDOE tried to force the contractor to incur the costs and expenses of this change. The construction company said they were misled by KDOE on their engineering work and core sampling. Legal actions ensured.

Obviously, these issues were eventually worked out. But alleged faulty engineering and sampling before construction caused a lot of the perceived delay.

It does seem that overall they are on schedule for completion.

attorney1776 3 years, 8 months ago

And I agree, there needs to be more enforcement of traffic violators in this area. Not only are the vehicles speeding consistently, but every morning before 6am I personally see northbound vehicles passing in 'no passing" zones when there are oncoming vehicles. It's like the wildwest.

Traveling southbound at 5pm, there are always vehicles who intentionally attempt to cut-off and interfere with the flow of traffic where Highway 59 narrows to one southbound lane south of Lawrence. I see the same vehicles doing this. They speed up to cut-off other drivers. I have also seen these drivers attempt to "intentionally" cut-off merging cars and force the left lane car to veer into the opposing, northbound lane to avoid being hit on the right side.

Obviously, this will change with the new highway, but these same drivers will be out there.

Orwell 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm not too clear on why the plan involved doing the Franklin County section before getting down to business in Douglas County. If they'd hired more people (and it's been a good time to do that) the contractor could have been doing it all at the same time and we'd already be driving on a new and safer road.

Jeremiah Jefferson 3 years, 8 months ago

Did you just say Pleasant Grove Pass as in a mountain pass? lol.

classclown 3 years, 8 months ago

“I think it’s great news,” said Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell, citing safety concerns about the two-lane portions of U.S. 59. “What we’re doing here is going to make that road safer.”


What's this "we" business Cromwell? What exactly is it that you aka Lawrence doing that is making that road safer?

Jeremiah Jefferson 3 years, 8 months ago

The new hwy 59 will be as safe as hwy 10. It will certainly be better than the old road and yes probably safer, but its still going to be the same morons (myself included) on it that drive it every day now. The only difference is they will be going faster. Watch, in 15 years everyone will want the saftey barriers they are now talking about installing on hwy 10... The new 59 is deffinatly needed, but it seems like everyone thinks there wont be anymore accidents after its done and that is foolish thinking.

attorney1776 3 years, 8 months ago

No, I said "Pleasant Grove pass". Please refer to Webster's. A "pass" describes an area of transverse between two higher elevations on either side. No where does "pass" mean between mountains as you suggest in a smart-ass manner.

Now you just look stupid, with all due respect.

ksengineer 3 years, 8 months ago

attorney1776 I think your information source is a little off track. The geology of the Pleasant Grove area was thoroughly studied and documented during the design process and incorporated into the plans and scheduling for the construction work. I believe the extra time needed to study the geology and design the roadway accordingly explain why the Franklin county portion was completed first. I do not believe (based on what I hear) that the geology concerns have in any way extended the construction timeline or caused any "legal actions."

If you go back and look at the history of the project I believe you'll find that the geology in this area was a significant factor in defining the new alignment. Very often you'll see highways built around the side of a hill. The advantage of this method is you can usually use the excavated material on the "cut" side to build up the roadbed on the "fill" side, thereby minimizing the transport distance. In the case of 59 they lined up the roadway directly through the hill, which requires more excavation and haul-off but a more uniform foundation for your roadway.

FlintlockRifle 3 years, 8 months ago

Me thinks 1776 has the facts right, I can remember the ground in question was different than, what KDOT passed on to the contractors in there bidding----

ksengineer 3 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps some followup investigating is in order. If what you and 1776 are saying is accurate then KDOT's negligence probably cost all of us taxpaying citizens an unnecessary chunk of money. Change orders always cost more than competitively bid work plus there could be a cost assigned to the time lost. We have the right to know when our government officials are behaving incompetently.

That said, I believe that you and Attorney1776 are not correct. I believe that the geology was reasonable described in the contract documents and that the planners and designers accounted for the related issues all along. My information is from sources directly involved with the project and I have no reason not to believe what I've been told.

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

This is an excellent story. It covers many of the facts that are necessary. A follow-up would be good, however, on how this road will affect Baldwin and Ottawa! Why not interview the mayor of both towns and people who have stores there?

Lawrence Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

And also it should make origins of the Civil War closer to see and experience, near Baldwin. That should be included in the follow-up as well.

attorney1776 3 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for all your comments. I would refer you to all LJW news stories from the fall whereby the the KDOT announced changes to the construction in the Pleasant Grove "pass" from the original engineering designs.

The change was specific to asphalt roadbed from the original concrete. The original engineering design (and the bid documents) specified concrete for the complete highway project. It was only during the construction process that doubts arouse about the core sampling at Pleasant Grove.

KDOT changed the engineering specifications last fall to asphalt (from concrete) for this very reason. You can read the LJW stories on this change in materials.

My source for this information is from an involved party in this specific project.

Changes in construction occur all the time after getting into the project. And involved parties dicker and fight over who's going to pay for what. There is no anomaly in this bickering.

The original core sampling and engineering changes caused some delays. Maybe things could have been better. But these kind of things are not so unusual or avoidable.

It's a fact of the business.

ksengineer 3 years, 8 months ago

just quickly looking at the awarded construction contracts for the Douglas County portion of the project: Fall, 2008 Ames Construction - Grading and Bridges, Frontage/Access roads Fall, 2010 Upper Plains Contracting - Approximately 7 miles concrete pavement from just south of the county line (matching the previously paved portion in FR county) to just N of the interchange at CR 460 (aka Zarco rd, 600N Rd, whatever you like to call it).
Fall, 2011 Bettis Asphalt - Asphalt pavement from CR 460 to existing 4lane South of Lawrence. Also includes all pavement markings, signs, lights, guardrail etc. to finish and open the new highway to traffic.

If the geology was discovered to be inaccurate and a change in the surfacing was made then it must have happened prior to the 2010 contract with Upper Plains. KDOT never advertised or awarded a contract for concrete pavement through the Pleasant Grove hill that I can find.

I think you know the basic facts but have them all jumbled up and on the wrong timeline. The geology issues were discovered and the surfacing changes made during the design process, long before any construction contracts were awarded.

Changes during construction are a common (and necessary) part of the business. However, if your accounting is accurate (and it's not) the KDOT would be guilty of either severe negligence or incompetence in the planning/design of this project.

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