SEK to get millions of dollars for highway improvements

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun
Gov. Laura Kelly announcing eastern Kansas highway improvement projects in Topeka on July 8.

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Last week, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that eight highway expansion and modernization projects in eastern Kansas — totaling more than $297 million in investments — have been committed to construction as part of a bipartisan transportation plan.  

“These eight highway improvement projects will enhance accessibility and road safety to recruit new businesses and families to eastern Kansas,” Kelly said in a press release. “Since day one, we’ve honored our commitment to ending the practice of using infrastructure dollars for projects they were never meant for – and instead use these dollars to directly fix our roads, bridges, and expand broadband access.” 

Three of the eight projects will take place in the southeast Kansas area, and a total of $33 million will be invested into the projects.  

Two of the projects involve widening and adding shoulders to K-7 from the Bourbon/Crawford County line to Girard and from the county line to the U.S 69 junction for a total investment of $27 million on a 22 mile stretch of the road. The area being widened has been a sore spot for trucker drivers in recent years as the narrow highway has caused a number of semi-truck accidents.  

The other project involves US-400 on the Cherokee/Crawford County line. Six million dollars will be invested to add passing lanes to a two-mile stretch of the highway just east of Cherokee.  

Although southeast Kansas will be getting some improvements to roads, the largest project will take place closer to Topeka and involves I-70.  

According to the release, the largest project is Topeka’s Polk-Quincy Viaduct and expanding I-70 to six lanes from MacVicar Avenue to Topeka Boulevard. At a cost of $234 million, “work will remove a sharp curve on the Viaduct while also making improvements for motorists traveling through or entering the downtown area.”  

“This week we are announcing projects totally nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars as part of the Kelly Administration’s transportation plan,” said KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz in the release. “This significant investment in the state’s transportation infrastructure proves that by listening to Kansans and working with communities, we can complete more projects and identify better ways to deliver them.” 

The remaining four projects include a diverging diamond interchange at U.S. 40/K-10 near Lawrence and adding passing lanes to sections of U.S. 400 in Greenwood and Neosho counties.  

In addition to those eight projects, Kelly also announced that express toll lanes will officially be being built on a section of Highway 69 in Overland Park.  

“This project will enhance accessibility, address long-term safety concerns, and relieve congestion to recruit new businesses and families to Johnson County,” Kelly said in a release. “Today’s announcement is further proof that our commitment to good stewardship of these funds is benefitting our communities, taxpayers, and businesses.” 

Last month the Overland Park Council voted in favor of building the toll lanes as a way to help prevent congestion along sections of Highway 69.  

“Commuters on U.S. 69 corridor are frustrated with increasing congestion and travel times,” said Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach in the release. “We must address these issues to keep the Overland Park community and economy growing.” 

According to the governor’s release, the project will keep the two existing lanes — which will remain free for drivers to use — and will simply add a new, third tolled lane in each direction from 151st and 103rd streets, “replace 50-year-old pavement and reconfigure interchanges at Blue Valley Parkway and I-435.”  

“This project improves traffic flow for all drivers on U.S. 69,” said Secretary Julie Lorenz in the release. “The Overland Park Council voted to use this approach to manage congestion and provide their local contribution through tolls. The Kelly Administration’s transportation program is built on partnerships.  Communities across the state are providing a local funding contribution or phasing projects so their projects can be constructed sooner.” 

This section of the U.S. 69 project is scheduled to be let for construction in the fiscal year 2022 and open to traffic in 2025. 

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net.