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U.S. 59 Record of Decision Released

May 30, 2003 Release 03-070

News Contact: Krista Roberts, (785) 296-3585

U.S. 59 Record of Decision Released

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have released the Record of Decision (ROD) for U.S. 59 in Douglas and Franklin counties. The ROD outlines the reasons for selecting the location of a new four-lane, access-controlled freeway from Lawrence to Ottawa. The selected location places the freeway approximately 300 feet east of the current U.S. 59. The estimated total cost of the project (in 2007 dollars) is $214 million.

“After extensive study of various alignment options and a great deal of public comment, I believe we have made a responsible decision,” said Deb Miller, Kansas Secretary of Transportation. “It is essential that we move as quickly as possible to improve the safety of this highly-traveled road.”

The proposed U.S. 59 freeway will be approximately 18 miles long and will generally parallel existing U.S. 59, except where it bypasses to the east of Pleasant Grove and near Ottawa. At Ottawa, the plan is for the new U.S. 59 to connect with I-35 at a new interchange northeast of the city.

KDOT estimates that it will be about five years before a construction contract is let on this project and construction begins. In the meantime, field survey activities should be completed by fall 2003. KDOT will use the information to begin designing the exact location of the new road. The road’s location and right-of-way needs should be known by fall 2005. The appraisal and purchase of right-of-way is expected to begin by the end of 2005. When the new freeway is completed, remaining portions of existing U.S. 59 will be turned over to Franklin and Douglas counties.

The right-of-way process includes appraising and buying property, as well as helping people and businesses move to new locations. To provide as much time as possible for residential and business relocations, the right-of-way process for this project will be moved ahead of schedule for situations where KDOT can determine early in the design process that an entire property will need to be purchased. Property owners identified through this expedited process will be contacted starting in fall 2003. KDOT will begin the right-of-way process for other properties as soon as the road’s exact location is determined and right-of-way requirements are finalized.

U.S. 59 was built as a two-lane highway in the 1920s to serve a rural population and to connect the relatively small towns of Ottawa and Lawrence. Today, U.S. 59 remains a two-lane highway, but now it is traveled by up to 10,000 vehicles every day. As this number increases, so does the number of accidents, injuries and overall safety concerns. From 1995-1999, U.S. 59 averaged an accident every 4.9 days, an injury every 9.5 days and a death every 5.4 months. This total accident figure is 25 percent higher than the number of accidents occurring on similar roadways throughout the state.

“We have a serious problem and we have a duty to solve it,” Miller said.

Local officials and residents requested that KDOT improve U.S. 59 to make it safer for travel. In 1997, KDOT began environmental studies and conceptual designs to evaluate the need for improvements to U.S. 59. In total, 17 alternative alignments were considered. The preferred alignment was selected for several reasons, which include: the proximity to the existing U.S. 59 increased the likelihood that the new freeway will be the most effective in attracting traffic from the existing U.S. 59; it creates opportunities for development along the western side of the existing U.S. 59 after it becomes a local access road; there is a potential to incorporate some of the existing right-of-way; and the preferred alignment would not adversely impact the rural setting as much as other alternatives.

Although the project’s completion date is several years away, Miller said KDOT will immediately take steps to improve safety. These include: adding rumble strips on U.S. 56 to warn drivers approaching the highway’s intersection with U.S. 59; periodic placing of portable signs to warn drivers when they exceed the speed limit; funding from KDOT’s Traffic Safety Bureau to help with speed limit enforcement; and installing reflectors on stop signs on county roads that intersect with U.S. 59.

A copy of the Record of Decision will be available on the internet at www.ksdot.org, click on “Public Info” and look under the heading “U.S. 59 -Between Lawrence and Ottawa.” You can also view the document along with public comments and responses after 1 p.m. Friday, May 30, during regular business hours at the addresses listed below. Public questions about this project can be directed to Ron Kaufman, Public Involvement Administrator, at (785) 296-3585 or toll-free (877) 550-5368.

  1. Ottawa City Hall, 101 S. Hickory Street, Ottawa
  2. Ottawa Library, 105 S. Hickory Street, Ottawa
  3. Douglas County Public Works Office, 1242 Massachusetts, Lawrence
  4. Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont Street, Lawrence
  5. Kansas Department of Transportation, Bureau of Design, 9th Floor, Docking State Office Bldg., 915 SW Harrison, Topeka
  6. Federal Highway Administration, 3300 Topeka Blvd, Ste. 1, Topeka