Safety fuels plans to widen U.S. 59

Getting from here to there may be faster in the future with the widening of U.S. 59 Highway, but safety is the key reason for the project.

“Safety is the principle benefit,” said Commissioner Charles Jones. “It will be a much safer road and it also will be faster. But the main reason for this is safety.”

The Kansas Department of Transportation will turn U.S. 59 into a four-lane freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa. The project is estimated to cost $210 million. Bid letting on the project will begin in spring 2007. KDOT received authorization for the project in May 2002.

KDOT spokesman Joe Blubaugh said public meetings and field checks will happen throughout the spring and into the summer on the project, which spans two counties.

He said KDOT staff members will begin meeting with officials in Franklin and Douglas counties to iron out more details. Most of the details will involve rights-of-way.

As part of the U.S. 59 plan, KDOT officials have agreed to incorporate recommendations made by Douglas County officials. Those projects include:

  • Eliminating a previously planned grade separation, which is like an overpass or underpass without a ramp, at North 200 Road.
  • Making the proposed frontage road east of U.S. 59 between U.S. Highway 56 and North 200 Road continuous.
  • Constructing a grade separation at North 550 Road.
  • Extending the frontage road on the east side of new U.S. 59 between North 500 and North 550 roads.
  • Adding a second access to Berg Acres, a residential subdivision southeast of the existing U.S. 59 and North 1100 Road.

Douglas County officials also agreed to improve East 1300 Road between North 100 and North 150 roads as part of the U.S. 59 improvement project.

Preliminary designs for the new U.S. 59 include interchanges at U.S. Highway 56, County Road 460 and County Road 458, also known as Wells Overlook Road. The freeway also would have crossings, either above or below the freeway, along North 1, North 150 and North 900 roads.