The Kansas Department of Transportation has put on the fast track a study that could bring a four-lane U.S. Highway 69 to Pittsburg sooner rather than later.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has put on the fast track a study that could bring a four-lane U.S. Highway 69 to Pittsburg sooner rather than later.

The study is taking a look at a six-mile stretch of existing U.S. 69 to see what alternatives could be done to expand it to four lanes. This stretch starts at 680th Street on the north and ends at the intersection with Kansas Highway 47 south of Franklin.

Once the Fort Scott to Arma piece is completed (funded as part of the T-WORKS transportation plan), that would leave this six-mile section as the only piece of U.S. 69 left as a two-lane between Kansas City and Pittsburg.

“It would look at alternatives we could take into consideration for some practical improvements, so we can get the most mobility and safety out of the money we are putting toward this improvement,” said James Dietzel, KDOT road design leader for the project.

Dietzel said that this study is being put on the fast track, and will be completed the same day as the Fort Scott to Arma alternatives study, sometime this fall. The study would likely not have as much public involvement as the Fort Scott to Arma study.

Dietzel said the move is not to take away from the plans for a Crawford County Corridor, which would start at 680th Street before going far west of Pittsburg and Arma before uniting with U.S. 400 at the Cherokee County line. No part of that project was funded by T-WORKS, meaning it would have to wait until at least 2021 before being considered for construction.

In fact, at the T-WORKS regional project announcement in Fort Scott on June 1, Gov. Sam Brownback made a statement that he would like to see U.S. 69 reach all the way to Pittsburg.

“Because we didn’t get that funding, the 6 miles there [around Arma], basically we want that to be a four-lane to Pittsburg,” Dietzel said. “I’m sure the local cities, communities and public officials around would like to make that connection sooner rather than later. Look at the resources needed.”

Dietzel made a “very rough” estimate that the six-mile section could cost between $15 and $20 million. However, no money has been set aside for the Arma work, either.

The alternatives the study will consider will be a four-lane with a median, without a median, as well as a potential five-lane facility, with the fifth lane being a turn lane. The study will also look at handling drainage through either an open ditch, which would need more right of way, or a curb-and-gutter, which would be more expensive.

Furthermore, Dietzel said a four-lane road would likely be needed near Arma before 2040, which is when the planned Fort Scott to Arma section would need to be repaved or redone in some way. Dietzel bases that on projected traffic counts, which would warrant, by KDOT standards, a four-lane road near Arma by 2040.

“I can’t speculate on when the Crawford County Corridor will be funded,” Dietzel said. “[The Arma project] is just an interim project. The improvements made will satisfy a lot of people in terms of a four-lane section. The ultimate goal is a freeway to Interstate 44.

That is the U.S. 69 Association’s goal. The traffic volumes and the technical aspects of safety will warrant this to be a four-lane section before the lifespan of the Fort Scott to Arma project will end.”

As for the U.S. 69 Association itself, executive director Jim AuBuchon said this planned study will not change his organization’s plans at all going forward.

“The point of that is to fill what you could call the gap,” AuBuchon said. “The gap is,you’re ending a pretty good highway once it’s constructed [from Fort Scott to Arma], to the four-lane road north of Pittsburg, where it exists, and/or the first part of the Crawford County Corridor. The tentative solution is to something temporarily. The ultimate fix is the Crawford County Corridor. It’s encouraging to note that [KDOT] recognizes the gap exists, and how best to connect that traffic. What might be discouraging, is if they spend the money on a temporary fix, and not on the permanent fix, and that’s the first segment of the Crawford County Corridor.”

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