Archive for Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ribbon cut on new U.S. Highway 59; road expected to be open to traffic in early October

September 18, 2012


The ribbon is cut, and soon — but not quite yet — a new U.S. Highway 59 will dramatically cut the risk of serious accidents for motorists traveling between Lawrence and Ottawa.

Area government leaders joined with officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation on Tuesday to cut the ribbon for an $82 million project to convert the two-lane U.S. Highway 59 through southern Douglas County into a four-lane freeway.

KDOT officials said they expect the road to open to traffic in the first week of October after the final road markings and signs are installed.

“Almost all of us who have grown up in this county or live in this county very long know people who have been injured on this highway,” said Baldwin City Mayor Ken Wagner. “Many of us know people who were killed on this highway. One of the things I want to talk about today is to honor the memory of those friends and neighbors.”

KDOT officials estimated rates of serious crashes on U.S. Highway 59 were about 25 percent more than on other state highways.

The project takes U.S. Highway 59 from a two-lane highway largely devoid of shoulders to a four-lane freeway with interstate-style entrance and exit ramps. The existing Highway 59 largely will remain intact and will be used as a county road.

“This project will give you a greater sense of security as you put your children on the school bus each morning,” said Mike King, secretary of transportation for the state. “It will make the commute between Ottawa and Lawrence less stressful.”

Gov. Sam Brownback was scheduled to attend the ribbon cutting, but stayed in Topeka to host U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on his visit to Kansas.

The project has been in the planning stages since 1998. Construction on rebuilding the Franklin County portion of U.S. Highway 59 began about five years ago. That portion of the road opened two years ago. The 19-mile project — combining both the Franklin and Douglas County portions — totaled nearly $220 million in construction, engineering and right-of-way costs. Federal highway funds paid for a large portion of the project, KDOT leaders said.

When it opens in early October, the entire stretch of U.S. Highway 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa will have a 70 mile per hour speed limit. Area leaders are expecting the road will serve as a quick connection for trucks and other commercial traffic to get between Interstate 70 in Lawrence and Interstate 35 in Ottawa.

“I think this really will open this area up for more economic development,” Wagner said. “If you have good transportation, companies will relocate.”


Clark Coan 5 years, 7 months ago

"Area leaders are expecting the road will serve as a quick connection for trucks and other commercial traffic to get between Interstate 70 in Lawrence and Interstate 35 in Ottawa."

That's all we need--more semis that create noise and extremely fine particulates from diesel exhaust. Plus, they will damage the pavement requiring repaving sooner.

Sherry Warren 5 years, 7 months ago

Those trucks are already using 59.... and hauling arse when they do it. Still, they are not as impatient at the Franklin County drivers that tailgate and pass on the shoulder when one is turning left off of 59.

local_support 5 years, 7 months ago

Do you purchase any goods from any stores at any time? If so, then don't gripe about how the goods were delivered. (If you make everything yourself by hand from resources you locate while hiking around the Lawrence area then gripe away)

And congrats to the politicians for getting something useful accomplished.

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 7 months ago

That's a great comment, local_support.

How do people expect to have their goods delivered to the stores?

Until we develop pollution-free transport (and we could probably have done that, if all of our money wasn't used for wars in the past ten years), you have to work with what we have.

And I, too, really value the completion of highway 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa.

It's also good for Baldwin. Some people forget that Baldwin has a small university and is a wonderful town. It would be a great location for smaller industries. On their lunch break, people could enjoy the quietness of Baldwin City (and the wonderfulness of all the maple trees within that city).

avoice 5 years, 7 months ago

The maple trees in Baldwin are very old, so they are dying. No new ones have been planted over the past few decades to keep the ambiance going. Kind of a metaphor for the town.

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 7 months ago

Last time I was out south the north section of new 59 to the old 4 lane was not paved, thought state required new concrete to ""rest several days "" before you could put traffic on new concrete

Stuart Evans 5 years, 7 months ago

not much on comprehension are ya? if they've paved it now, and it's not going to open until the first week of October, that means that there are about 3 weeks (that's several several days) until traffic will be on it.

rdkone 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm not 100% sure but I think that asphalt if being used for the unfinished segment instead of concrete.

Robert Schehrer 5 years, 7 months ago

The north section you are talking about is asphalt, not concrete.

windjammer 5 years, 7 months ago

We heard the very same safety predictions about old 10 and now new 10. And they are building this road without crossover protection. Will be no safer than the previous 59 with increased speed limits, aggressive driving, drunk driving, texting and driving.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 7 months ago

so far it's been pretty nice on the finished portions. People are less inclined to drive aggressively when there is an actual passing lane to go around slowpokes and idiots. No amount of lanes will stop drunk or texting drivers, but four lanes will reduce the number of yellow line head on collisions.

borntoplay 5 years, 7 months ago

I live off 59 and two neighbors have been killed on that road in the past 10 years. Any improvement is welcome and long overdue.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 7 months ago

Hooray for the new 59. No more dangerous intersections, better sight lines, modern entrance & exit ramps & a huge boost to commerce & economic development potential for our fair city & Douglas & Franklin Counties.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

No matter how much folks want to be a cheerleader for this highway, the real truth of the matter is that no matter what marginal safety gains it may bring, they will be at least partially offset by the increased traffic (especially truck traffic) and higher speeds.

Bottom line-- transportation of goods via tractor-trailers and mass transit via single-occupancy vehicles (even when they carry a passenger or two) are inherently very dangerous, and destroying a significant swath of farm ground in favor yet another dead zone of pavement and pollution doesn't change that.

Gsauce 5 years, 7 months ago

Look, anyone not excited about this obviously doesn't spend much time on 59. Everybody already drives 70 on it, theres always alot of traffic, tons of hills, no passing zones, no shoulder to pull off on, and all the idiots that think its a good idea to pass anyway.. Yeah, a four lane free way has been needed for along time. And i personally can't wait to fly down it. :)

Robert Schehrer 5 years, 7 months ago

Sorry Gsauce, I travel 59 all the time and I don't drive 70. My guess is that most folks try to hold it under 60. Some my try to drive 70, but these are probably the ones that I see the State Troopers have pulled over.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 6 months ago

I'd agree that 60 is more accurate. Occasionally the road opens up and you could go faster for a mile or two, but more often than not, someone is creeping along at 50 with ten other cars bunched up behind them. Between the deer and the oblivious, I dread that road.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

The railroads haven't been the primary movers of freight and people since sometime around the middle of the 20th Century. No amount of cow-eyed longing is going to bring that back.

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