KDOT Halts Planned Expansion of US 69, Diverting Monies to State Budget Shortfall
More than five hundred million dollars worth of transportation projects in Kansas have been halted because of declining state revenues.
Just eighteen months after Governor Sam Brownback reassured the people of Southeast Kansas that highway 69 would finally be expanded to four-lanes, the project is scrapped at least for now.
Just north of Arma in Crawford County, one project was supposed to create a four lane expressway stretching to the Bourbon county line.
The news of the delay is not sitting well with the people and a local lawmaker who vows to fight this broken promise.
Sen. Jake la Turner says of the governor, “He promised it would be built. He promised it would be built on time.”
Senator la Turner isn’t the only one upset with the governor and KDOT putting the brakes on plans for 69 to become four lanes north of Arma and near US 166 at Baxter Springs.
Sandra Stout of Pittsburg says of the governor, “He’s not been serving Kansas right or Crawford county, this area at all.”
Diana Brown says of the delay, “Yes, I am disappointed. I was looking forward to it.”
And David Mauersberger counters, “I’m not surprised, the way the state has continued to rob highway funds. KDOT is the only agency that has to have funding totally available before they can let a project and
every governor has stolen from it for the last twenty years.”
David is a former Highway 69 Association president fighting for four lanes since the 1970s.
Senator la Turner agrees saying the state’s dipping into the bank of KDOT.
“Money has been taken from KDOT for decades as well and enough is enough. This is too fa.r We’re canceling a project that people have been promised for a very long time and its unacceptable. We have to find a better way.”
KDOT’s public affairs director says money was in place for the projects but is being diverted for now.
Steve Swartz said, “I think for about 18 to 24 months. What we’re waiting for is to see when the state highway fund revenues allow us to do that . Or in the case new money is made available that will impact when we can actually reschedule.
La Turner argues, “The money has been going to projects across the state. You don’t see big delays to projects in Johnson county or Sedgewick county. Its southeast Kansas that’s gotten a raw deal on this and its unacceptable.”
Cities along 69 united to push for the four lanes hoping for economic development. Blake Benson with the Crawford county Convention and Visitors Bureau said, “Access to a four lane is always one of the first questions they ask. (industry) And we’ve been able to say no, not today but in a year construction will begin and in three years it will be done. To now delay that indefinitely puts a crimp in those plans and being able to explains what the future holds for being able to get goods in and out of Crawford County.”
Benson says four lanes have made an enrollment difference at Pittsburg State University.
Traffic counts show heavy flow to the north 55 hundred vehicles a day at the Bourbon/Crawford county line to 6,400 just south of Pittsburg.
That drops dramatically as it narrows to two lanes to 2,190 at the Missouri state line.
Delays will take until at least until 2018 projects of this magnitude take three to five years to complete so it will be a long time before folks see a 4 lane 69.