The Kansas Department of Transportation’s U.S. 50/83/400 bypass improvements project will officially begin Monday, kicking off nine months of highway traffic taking detours through Garden City.
So on Tuesday, at a three-hour come-and-go public Q&A session about the project, KDOT staff broke down to locals, chiefly drivers and business owners, what that may mean.
Koss Construction Company from Topeka will complete the $11 million project in three phases from Monday through Dec. 20, said Craig Schlott, KDOT District Six construction engineer. The bypass will likely officially close its first section Wednesday and reopen the entire stretch near the end of November, though workers will still take several weeks to clean up and wrap up the project.
The project will replace the bypass’ decades-old concrete and asphalt from Third Street to Fulton Street, add turning lanes at the Campus Drive intersection, update lighting at the Fulton Street intersection and place an electronic sign on U.S. 50 east of Campus to inform drivers about road conditions, Schlott said.
“I think anybody that travels the bypass knows this has to be done. We have tried and tried to patch it and keep it together, but that concrete is 30 to 35 years old in places,” said Lisa Knoll, KDOT District Six public affairs manager.
The first phase will shut down the bypass from the Hobo Fuel Center west of Campus Drive to the K-156 interchange at Kansas Avenue through the end of June, Schlott said. Throughout July, the stretch will reopen and the section from Third Street to Hobo will close for work, he said.
Starting Aug. 1, the bypass will close from Kansas Avenue to the north side of Fulton Street, save the Schulman Avenue intersection, which is already in good condition.
The phases approach would get the project done more quickly than other methods, said KDOT District Six Engineer Ron Hall. If the project closed off one lane at at time to keep the bypass open, construction would have lasted two years, he said.
The project will impact all local drivers one way or another. Through the end of July, bypass traffic will be redirected south down Taylor Avenue then east along Kansas Avenue to the K-156 interchange. From August through the end of the project, it will be redirected from the interchange, west along Kansas Avenue and south down Campus Drive to Fulton Street, Schlott said.
Director of Neighborhood and Development Services Kaleb Kentner said previously that traffic along detours would mimic the city’s normal 5 p.m. rush, but constantly. Hall agreed that traffic will increase significantly.
“I think everyone recognizes it’s going to be kind of a pain in the foot for a year, but it needs to be done … Just be patient. It’ll be a short term pain and a long term gain,” Hall said.
Director of Finney County EMS Skylar Swords attended the meeting and said the detours should not significantly affect emergency routes, but responders would have to take the changes into account. Ambulances don’t use the bypass often unless responding to car accidents, and that will likely be less of a problem with sections closed, he said.
Several staff members from local businesses, including American Implement, Brookover Feed Yards, Geres, Nutrien Ag Solutions and Palmer Manufacturing and Tank, pointed to an shared concern: how will frequent oversized and wide loads, from wind turbine parts to tanks to large agricultural equipment, navigate around the project?
The bypass closure is an inconvenience to Brookover’s trucking operations, said staff member Mark Boos, and Geres owner Ora Swords said approved oversized load routes are necessary for her to do business in town.
American Implement Fleet Director Robert Faulconer, who first addressed the issue, said the project was coinciding with the peak of agriculture seasons, when his company will haul large loads daily, some more than 16 feet wide and headed by a pilot car. He wanted to make sure companies had permission from the city and county to take the loads down local roads, but also the shaky logistics of taking the loads off the highway.
His primary concern is safety, and his company did not want to damage roadside properties or the equipment being hauled or cause accidents, he told The Telegram later.
“That’s farmers in and around this county that we’re trying to service, as well as dealerships, business, in some cases KDOT … I can’t believe that we’re at this point of it and we haven’t had a discussion like this yet. I just need to know how in the world we’re supposed to go about getting around town…” Faulconer told staff.
At the time, KDOT staff did not have firm answers — Finney County and the City of Garden City must approve additional routes — but did listen to feedback from present local representatives, including Finney County Commissioners Dave Jones, Larry Jones and Duane Drees, Finney County Engineer John Ellerman and Garden City Commissioner Roy Cessna.
But the whole concern may be a relative non-issue, Hall said Wednesday. Longer loads, such as wind turbine blades, can not make turns on city roads and will need alternative routes, but the Garden City Police Department told him other wide loads are permitted to use local roads. The loads, which can sometimes take up more than one lane, will impede city traffic, but will still be able to take advantage of the official detours, he said.
Kentner said previously that semis will also take the designated detours during the project.
As planned before hearing the news, Hall said KDOT staff will sit in on the Finney County Commission’s meeting Monday to determine other options for large loads, such as using routes along VFW Road and Sagebrush Road or down Holcomb Lane to move south and east of the city, Ellerman said. Drees said he expected the county commission to officially designate a route Monday.
“We can’t delay this decision,” Drees said.
Besides further discussion on wide and oversized loads, with which Hall hopes to see progress by Wednesday, and a final meeting with the Koss Construction Friday, the project is set to move forward, Hall said.
For updates on the project, visit www.us50swks.org or check the KDOT District Six Facebook page.
Correction: This post has been updated to include KDOT District Six Engineer Ron Hall's first name and title.
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