The news for the members of the U.S. Highway 69 Alternatives Study Advisory Committee for the Fort Scott-Arma section in the past month has been decidedly mixed.

The news for the members of the U.S. Highway 69 Alternatives Study Advisory Committee for the Fort Scott-Arma section in the past month has been decidedly mixed.

On June 1, the 12-mile stretch of U.S. 69 from the intersection with Kansas Highway 7 in Bourbon County to 680th Street in Crawford County was chosen by Gov. Sam Brownback as part of the 10-year T-WORKS transportation project. That was the high point.

And on Thursday, at the last meeting of the advisory committee before it issues its final report at the end of the summer, the group learned that construction of that project will have to wait another three to five years.

“I’m impressed by getting it as an expressway,” said state Sen. Bob Marshall, R-Fort Scott. “That was decided by the governor at his announcement. I’m disappointed in the length of time it will take to make this happen. My thought was that we were further along in some of these processes than we are.”

Thursday’s meeting was a wrap-up of sorts, including answers to several committee members’ questions. The governor has assigned $47 million in construction funds to make this section of the highway an upgradeable expressway, which has at-grade intersections (such as the current U.S. 69 between Arma and Frontenac) roughly every half mile, and the right-of-way purchased and design work in place for the future expansion of the road to a freeway at some point far in the future. The total cost of the project, once right-of-way costs and others are included, would be closer to $56 million.

The project’s next steps will take some time, though. After this study is complete, the Kansas Department of Transportation will begin a survey process that will likely take a full year to complete. Following that, the preliminary design phase will take place, which is another two years, said KDOT road design leader James Dietzel. Then, KDOT will develop its preliminary concept ahead of an open house to the public, which will lead to the field check, which marks the 50 percent planning point. Beyond that, right of way would need to be acquired and plans finished before the bids would be put out to let.

“We don’t even have a letting date assigned at this time,” Dietzel said. “We just have to have it let by the end of T-WORKS, in 2021. We’ll probably get something in the latter part of the 20-teens. Maybe by 2017, 2018 we might have the letting then.”

Dietzel even said he expects the construction on the project to take at least two to three construction seasons to complete.

The three-to-five years timeline is a little longer than has been expected in recent times, as not long ago, this section of road was under consideration for federal stimulus funds, but was determined to not be “shovel-ready.”

Dietzel said that plans have changed since the stimulus, increasing the timeline.

“The design was mostly done, and the right of way was mostly acquired. The proposal was to use ARRA on this, and make it a four-lane expressway with 1/2-mile access ppoints, with a 60-foot median,” Dietzel said. “We reviewed this because a question came up as to whether this was the right thing to do. A lot of argument in the U.S. 69 Association and the public for something more than that to Interstate 44.”

In part, the plans for Fort Scott to Arma include an 84-foot median (rather than a 60-foot median), and as part of the “upgradeable” nature of this expressway, that would require purchasing extra right-of-way. Dietzel said there are four major portions of right-of-way that need to be secured, as the current right-of-way is only for an expressway, not for the “upgradeable” nature. Those four portions include right-of-way for: access roads, the wider median, potential interchanges and future bridges.

Dietzel also announced “very preliminary” work being done for an four-lane project around Arma that would hook up with the four-lane U.S. 69 going south of Franklin. This would only be an “interim” fix, as the ultimate plans for U.S. 69 include creating a Crawford County Corridor. Expect more from the Morning Sun on this aspect in the coming days.

In fact, George Dockery, KDOT area engineer, said that the first of three portions of the Crawford County Corridor, connecting from north of Arma to U.S. 160 in Frontenac, would have its field check next Wednesday, marking the 50 percent progress point on that section of road. The next steps would be right-of-way acquisition and final design, as well as securing funding.

Dockery noted that that the design on the Crawford County Corridor is much further along than the design of the Fort Scott-to-Arma section, but there is no funding at this time for that first section of the corridor.

Andrew Nash can be reached at or by calling 231-2600 ext. 140.