Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2012

KDOT to spruce up old U.S. 59, may take out passing lane

May 16, 2012


For those who like to zoom by slow-moving vehicles going up the hill on U.S. Highway 59 just outside of Pleasant Grove, your passing days are numbered.

Later this year, the Kansas Department of Transportation is expected to open up the brand new U.S. Highway 59, which will be a four-lane freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa. When they do, the existing U.S. 59 will be turned over to the county as a minor collector road.

Before the county takes control of the road, KDOT has agreed to fix bridges, repave roads and replace the guardrail. As part of that agreement, the county is asking KDOT to take away the southbound passing lane that allows vehicles to pass on the hill just as they are entering Pleasant Grove. That lane is about .6 mile long.

With the bulk of the traffic moving to the new U.S. 59, the passing lane wouldn’t be needed, and it’s not something typically found on a county roadway, said Keith Browning, director of public works.

“It will be more of a minor collector road. You won’t be able to go a few miles without coming to stop,” Browning said.

Plus, dropping from three to two lanes would make the road less expensive to maintain.

Every mile of roadway costs about $10,000 to $12,000 a year in upkeep.

At the County Commission meeting Wednesday night, Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she had heard from people who lived in the area who would like the passing lane to stay in place, mainly so cars could get around slow-moving ag machinery. As a compromise, Browning said KDOT and the county have discussed shifting the roadway to allow for a 6-foot-wide shoulder on either side, which would give plenty of room for ag machinery to move over to allow vehicles to pass.

KDOT expects to start work on the old U.S. Highway 59 next year.


gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

The lane is already there. It seems dumb to take it out.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 10 months ago

Are you volunteering to pay for it?

"dropping from three to two lanes would make the road less expensive to maintain."

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 10 months ago

Although it would be more expensive to maintain the passing lane, I think I would be worth the extra cost because leaving it there is likely to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities. Or maybe, leave it there until it is a certainty that there is very little traffic on that road.

The reason I think this is the case is because most people are not aware of the acceleration limits of their vehicles when going uphill, it is very difficult to estimate the speed of an oncoming vehicle, and many people drive well over the speed limit when going downhill.

If a driver is behind a slow moving vehicle and wants to pass with a far away oncoming car visible, he might do so. If he does pass, he might realize his fatal mistake too late. His car cannot accelerate nearly as fast as it could on level ground, and the oncoming car is coasting down the hill well in excess of the speed limit, as is usual on that stretch of roadway.

But, it's too late now.

This reminds me of some roadwork that was done east of St. Francis, Kansas a few years ago. U.S. Highway 36 between St. Francis and Wheeler was being redone, and so traffic was rerouted to a country road which was paved for the first time expressly for that purpose.

After the work was completed on U.S. Highway 36, the crew prepared to remove the asphalt and highway lane markings that had been placed there for temporary use. There were protests from the local people, they wanted the pavement to be left in place. K.D.O.T. agreed, but with the stipulation that it is NOT a highway, and therefore cannot have lane markings. So, the asphalt pavement was left, but the lane markers were removed.

I was very alarmed and was sure I knew what was going to happen when I heard that decision had been made because I know what the high school kids had been doing for decades. You could drive as fast as you wanted to on that road because the police were never there to check for speeding drivers, and all the kids knew that. I'm sure I did not set any records when I drove on that unpaved road at (secret) mph one time.

Leaving the pavement there would eliminate the limits that a dirt road places on speed, now 140 mph and faster would be possible on a road that the police never patrolled. And, with no lane markers the edge of the road would not be as visible. And, a lot of kids did their race car driving on that road at night.

Don't ever bring up that subject with anyone from St. Francis. They've already lost one young woman on that road who was guess what, speeding. The bright side of that accident is that her brother survived to tell the tale of how fast she had been driving. There might have been more accidents, I only know of that one.

So, although the situations are wildly different, I think that careful consideration of the safety of the traveling public should be done before any decision is made to eliminate the passing lane on that stretch of Highway 59.

average 5 years, 10 months ago

One advantage of the big shoulders over the 3-lane section is that the 'old 59' is almost certain to become like the 'old K-10' between Lawrence and De Soto. And that is, become a common thoroughfare for bicyclists, especially with the rail-trails radiating out from Ottawa.

And, Ron, there has to be something more to the story. There are thousands of miles of county blacktops with lane markings in Kansas.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 10 months ago

There could be more to the story, but I sure don't know what it would be. In my posting above I relayed what I was told, and while I lived there I drove on that road quite a few times, and it certainly was paved and had no lane markings then.

It's County Road O, east of St. Francis, Kansas 67756. The county, not the state, is responsible for its upkeep. Just now I took a look on, aerial view, and County Road 0 obviously is paved, and has no lane markings.

Brian Elm 5 years, 10 months ago

I believe it's less than a mile of road with the passing lane and it's going to cost how much to totally redo all of that section of road? Most likely it will take more than a couple decades of upkeep before this project would pay for its self. Seems ridiculous.

Phoghorn 5 years, 10 months ago

I would much prefer to keep the passing lane instead of going with the six foot shoulder compromise. I am not a highway engineer, but logic seems to dictate that it is much safer to allow vehicles a full lane for passing wide ag equipment. Yes, there will be some maintenance cost, but there will also be a cost to remove the lane and shift the roadbed. Let's just leave well enough alone!

Joe Hyde 5 years, 10 months ago

Commonsense arguments for both options. Money-wise you can't fault Mr. Browning's logic. He wants to save county taxpayers the annual expense of maintaining a 3-lane road in perpetuity. Justifying two southbound lanes up Pleasant Grove Hill gets difficult once the majority of daily north/south traffic moves onto the high-speed US-59 Freeway.

On the other hand, if maintaining one mile of paved roadway costs $10K-to-$12K annually, and Pleasant Grove Hill is .6 miles long, you need to ask if the money sting will be painful enough to warrant immediately removing that southbound passing lane. There certainly is a safety benefit in keeping it "as is".

Would it be possible at this late date to enter into a binding agreement with KDOT whereby, commencing with the opening of the new freeway, a two year local traffic study gets conducted on Pleasant Grove Hill before a decision is made regarding removal/retention of that passing lane? The plan to remove the lane is based on traffic projections, whereas a 2-year delay would allow time for gathering hard evidence justifying whichever course would then be taken at the end of the 2-year period.

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