U.S. 169 will be closed between Iola and Humboldt starting this spring to accommodate a full rebuild of the highway.
The 7.12-mile rebuild is expected to take upward of 18 months, and is slated to begin sometime between April and June, depending on when a contract is approved.
Kansas Department of Transportation district engineer Darrin Petrowsky discussed the project Tuesday with Allen County commissioners.
The 169 rebuild has been in the planning stages for about four years, although a more expensive project, which would have allowed crews to keep one lane open during the rebuild, was scrapped in order to keep costs in line.
The $50 million project will be phased, he explained, to keep ramps at north (Hawaii Road) and south (Delaware Road) entrances to Humboldt — open, one or the other — to accommodate heavy trucks bound to and from B&W Trailer Hitches and Monarch Cement, as well as local businesses.
THE OFFICIAL detour will be on U.S. 54 west to Yates Center and then south on U.S. 75 to K-39 Highway into Chanute.
“Because county roads (old U.S. 169 in particular) have a 15-ton limit, we can’t use them, officially, for a detour,” Petrowsky said.
Commissioners doubt locals, at least, will adhere to the detour.
Commissioner Jim Talkington asked Petrowsky if the county can expect any assistance from the state to maintain the old highway because of the expected increase in traffic.
“There’s no agreement now,” Petrowsky answered, “but we’ve always worked in the past” with local governing bodies because of a KDOT project.
“Get a picture of use before the project starts,” he added, through traffic counts. Mitch Garner, director of Public Works, said that’s on the department’s agenda.
All agreed, in fact, the old highway will continue to carry heavy trucks used not only by Monarch Cement but also by local farmers come harvest.
THE 169 project is one of two slated to begin this year in Allen County.
The other will have three-quarters of an inch of U.S. 59 milled away and overlaid with asphalt between its intersection with U.S. 54 at Moran, and extend south to the Neosho County line. That will be done on the quick compared to Highway 169’s replacement, and will start “sometime this year, but we don’t have a date yet,” Petrowsky said.
KDOT has a third project planned in Iola, to replace some sidewalks and install ramps where they intersection with streets as part of a Safe Routes to School effort.
Crews also will rebuild much of U.S. 169 at the intersection of Humboldt-Chanute Road south to Earlton, leaving out the four-lane portion of the highway west of Chanute.