The next project phase for the expansion of Highway 69 will begin the week of March 2.

The project will begin north of the U.S. Highway 69 and Kansas Highway 47 junction (620th Avenue) and will continue to three miles north of the Arma city limits, a release from the Kansas Department of Transportation said. Two lanes will be added to the existing Highway 69 alignment.

Two-way traffic is being maintained on the existing lanes of Highway 69 while the new lanes are under construction, according to KDOT. The traffic will be switched to the new lanes when the existing lanes are rebuilt. Early project activity includes grading and work on box culverts off the highway.

KDOT awarded the $21.8 million construction contract to Koss Construction Co. of Topeka. According to the project schedule, the new expressway will be open to unrestricted traffic by mid-August 2021.

The last phase was completed in June of 2019 and there was a ribbon cutting to celebrate 76 miles of completed four-lane highway.

“We are very excited to keep the progress going and momentum going on the Highway 69 effort,” said Blake Benson, Highway 69 Association representative and Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President. “I think one thing that sets our project apart from others around the state is that it's been supported by every community along the route for more than 70 years. “Seeing it move forward is a testament to the perseverance of the communities alongside the route.”

The highway expansion is crucial for safety, growth and economic development, Benson said, adding that recent fatal wrecks speak to the need for the progress to continue.