Several nearby highways will be affected by road construction or rehabilitation projects, Iola City Council members were told Monday.
Darrin Petrowsky, area engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation, briefed the council on the more prominent ones.
“As most everyone knows, we have U.S. 54 closed down between here and Yates Center,” Petrowsky said, prompted by replacement of a railroad overpass just east of Yates Center.
Motorists are being diverted south to K-39 on the outskirts of Chanute, then west to U.S. 75 before going back north to Yates Center.
Petrowsky noted local drivers have found unofficial shortcuts, using county roads or alternative state highways, but KDOT officially cannot endorse those because of liability concerns.
Petrowsky said the overpass work should be finished by mid-October, although the contractors will receive a financial incentive if they finish earlier.
Road crews will work starting in May on “hot-in-place” recycling along U.S. 54 between LaHarpe and the Bourbon County line, as well as a large portion of the highway farther west, in Greenwood County.
Hot-in-place recycling involves softening asphalt pavement with heat, scraping away and grinding the material with a new bonding agent, and then reapplying the new mix to the surface.
Bottom line: “U.S. 54 is gonna be messed up for a while,” Petrowsky said.
Crews also are going to add a 3-inch overlay of asphalt on U.S. 169 between Iola and Welda. The KDOT Garnett office is handling that project.
Area projects about to get started include the closure of K-3 south of Uniontown for a bridge replacement, and building new passing lanes along U.S. 400 in Greenwood County.
KDOT also is involved with development of Iola’s Lehigh-Portland Trail. Tree removal has begun already, he said.
PETROWSKY said KDOT has plans in place to reduce preventive maintenance projects by 50 percent this year and next if the State Legislature follows through with its plans to divert about $95 million from the state’s transportation budget.
KDOT typically does preventive maintenance annually on 150 lane miles in the Southeast Kansas District. That will be pared to 75 lane miles this year “and that could be reduced to zero miles” if further cuts occur.
With the lighter workload, KDOT is allowing some contractors to spread out projects over this year and next, Petrowsky said.
Petrowsky said he didn’t expect any further cuts, and indications were the preventive maintenance budgets would be refunded by 2017.
He also spoke about various grant opportunities for communities to pursue.
Long-term projects include replacing a portion of the roadway on U.S. 169 between Iola and Thayer, 26 miles in all.
A full-scale replacement, pegged at $120 million, was scrapped because of costs, Petrowsky said. More limited improvements pared estimates to $47 million.
That project has not yet been funded by the state, he stressed.
Other projects on the radar include replacing the railroad overpass on U.S. 54 at Moran.
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