Archive for Wednesday, April 17, 2002

KDOT seeking input at U.S. 59 public hearing

April 17, 2002

After long last, the question of a new U.S. Highway 59 has resurfaced.

Kansas Department of Transportation officials have scheduled a public hearing for 5 p.m. April 30 at Baldwin High School to seek input concerning which of two possible routes for the highway. The one decision made by KDOT during the past year-plus of study is that it will be a four-lane freeway designed to reduce the high rate of accidents on the present U.S. 59.

Possible routes are 300 feet east of the present highway or about a mile east of that. Estimated cost of the freeway just east of U.S. 59 is $210.3 million and displaces 33 residences and eight businesses. The route a mile east would be $199.4 million and displace 11 residences and two businesses.

There are opponents to both routes, but KDOT is hoping that a consensus can be reached.

"We're hoping people come to the meeting with an open mind," said KDOT Spokesman Marty Matthews. "Both of these are legitimate alignments. The reason we have them both still out there is we have to hear more from all the people involved, because they are so close in so many ways."

The current route is considered one of the most dangerous in the state with an accident rate 25 percent higher than similar highways in Kansas. The 18-mile stretch of highway goes from Lawrence south to Ottawa.

The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) completed on the highway revealed that the four-lane freeway would reduce accidents by 80 percent and injury accidents by 60 percent.

Comments from the Baldwin public hearing and written comments submitted to KDOT by May 30 will be used for the final EIS which will be used to select a "preferred route." There would be a 30-day public comment period after the final EIS before the Federal Highway Administration would issue its "record of decision."

Once a decision is made, construction is tentatively planned to begin in 2007.

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