Every drop in the bucket helps for the four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 69. Wednesday brought news of nearly 900,000 drops in the bucket coming from the federal government to help with the project.

Every drop in the bucket helps for the four-lane expansion of U.S. Highway 69. Wednesday brought news of nearly 900,000 drops in the bucket coming from the federal government to help with the project.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced an $889,200 grant for preliminary engineering studies on a potential new bypass through Crawford County from north of Arma south to U.S. Highway 400.
The word of the grant award came through the office of U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins.
“Highway 69 is the major transportation route in Southeast Kansas, and the current two-lane highway is not able to handle the heavy traffic,” Jenkins said in a release. “Widening Highway 69 to a four-lane highway will improve its safety and is essential to economic growth in Southeast Kansas. I congratulate the folks in Crawford and Cherokee counties for securing this critical grant funding to ensure this project moves forward in a timely fashion and I will continue to be of help in any way I can.”
The funds come from Transportation, Community, and System Preservation (TCSP) Program funds. The TCSP is a program designed to help expand the infrastructure of transportation by helping to fund some of the planning costs.
The grant is to be used for preliminary design in the already identified U.S. 69 corridor. This would include traffic forecasting, access management, environmental impacts, market analysis, land use regulation and zoning issues. The corridor has been identified, but a more precise alignment has yet to be determined. Once the alignment is identified, officials can begin obtaining the right-of-ways. The finish date for these studies is scheduled for February 2011.
U.S. Highway 69 Association executive director Jim AuBuchon said the announcement was a surprise to him.
AuBuchon and a delegation from the U.S. 69 Association had visited Washington in February to lobby most of the area’s Congressional leaders. He said that the delegation had asked for funding for Cherokee County planning studies. Later, Jenkins’ staffers had asked for more details and the delegation had said that any portion that could get funded along the remaining 65 or so miles of U.S. 69 would be helpful. However, what would and would not get funded and when that news would come was impossible to guess.
“Here it is, a beautiful sunny day, and I get a phone call from one of Jenkins’ staff,” AuBuchon said. “When the call did come, I’m ecstatic The news is good. It’s just good news. It affirms the work we’ve been trying to accomplish. All our time, effort and energy is worth it. It encourages us to keep plodding ahead.”
Plodding ahead is exactly what will be needed to complete the Crawford County section of the project.
According to the most recent estimates by the Kansas Department of Transportation, efforts to actually build the proposed bypass would be years down the road. Each mile of the proposed bypass would require $10 million in funding. Since the project in Crawford County is a 25-mile stretch of road, that amounts to $250 million necessary to finish the project.
While the Crawford County section is moving forward for now, AuBuchon said he was still waiting on news of funding for further studies in Cherokee County. He said there is a possibility of “significantly more money” for the Cherokee County section that may be yet to come through U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran’s office.
But as for today, AuBuchon wanted to celebrate.
“Highway 69 comes out looking pretty good once again,” he said.

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.