PITTSBURG — On Wednesday, Governor Jeff Colyer made a visit to Pittsburg State University with a big message, Hwy 69 would be expanding to four lanes to Pittsburg.
The expansion — a project that has been in the works for decades — has been frequently stalled due to funding constraints.
“I live on the other end of 69 highway, my house is about a mile off the road,” Colyer said. “I know how important this is for growing our communities.”
Colyer said the highway expansion would encourage more businesses to the area, as well as make sure that it’s easy for new “Gorillas” to travel to Pittsburg.
The move was met with positivity and gratitude from Pittsburg State President Steve Scott.
“Since we have the Secretary of Transportation here, and people that have worked hard to expand 69 this is a perfect time to say thank you,” Scott said.
Scott commended the President of the Highway 69 Association Ken Brock for his efforts to bring a four lane solution to the area.
“Your efforts have made an enormous difference for years to come,” he said.
Brock, who has been the president of the Highway 69 Association for ten years, said this was a very good day.
“It’s just like Christmas morning,” he said in an official statement released after the press conference. Brock said the work of the association is not yet finished.
“Governor Colyer announcing that the funding is available for the next 11 miles is a huge milestone for the US 69 Highway Association.” Brock said. “This will complete a four-lane highway from Kansas City to Pittsburg.
“Although the Association still has much work to do to keep pushing for a four-lane to I-44, today’s announcement is fantastic news for the safety and economic benefits to Southeast Kansans.
The announcement was a welcome one across the state. U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said in a statement provided to the media.
“The Highway 69 corridor is critical to the region’s economy and its expansion will allow for greater economic activity, improved access to Pittsburg State University and dramatically improved safety along the route,” Moran said. “Today’s announcement is a testament to the tireless efforts of community leaders like Ken Brock, Pittsburg Chamber President Blake Benson, State Treasurer Jake LaTurner and the many other Kansans who have long worked on this expansion.
“I am pleased to see this decades-long project on its way to completion for the good of the state.”
The previous governor, Governor Brownback had committed to extending the highway in 2014, during his campaign for reelection, but later revoked the money to do so.
A move that concerns top Democrats. Senate Democratic leader Anthony Hensley said in a statement that the timing of the announcement is a “fraudulent election-year tactic.”
“Three weeks before the August 7 primary, Jeff Colyer is making an announcement about Highway 69,” Hensley said. “He’s taking a page right out of Sam Brownback’s 2014 campaign playbook.”
The highway expansion project is expected to cost 57 million dollars to complete. Colyer said while the project is slated to begin in the fall of 2019, he has high hopes that with cooperation across departments it may be able to start in the summer of that year.