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US-69 Expansion Project Dedicated


February 4, 2005 (05-012)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News Contact:  Steve Swartz (785) 296-3585

US-69 Expansion Project Dedicated

LOUISBURG - Hundreds of students joined Governor Kathleen Sebelius and other state leaders Friday in celebrating the opening of the first of eight expansion projects that will create a US-69 freeway from Louisburg to Fort Scott by 2009.

Nearly 11 miles of the highway from Louisburg south were opened to traffic in January. The Governor, Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deb Miller, legislators and local officials marked the occasion before students and state and local leaders at Louisburg High School.

"It is our hope that this new highway will not only save lives, but also save businesses and create jobs," the Governor said. "We can't accomplish our goal of a truly healthy Kansas without new jobs."

The project expanded the former two-lane stretch of highway to four lanes and cost $40 million. One other section of the road continuing south for 4.7 miles will be opened later this year.

The entire project, which will create a 55-mile, four-lane freeway from Louisburg to Fort Scott by 2009, will cost approximately $275 million to construct. It is part of the 10-year, $13.2 billion Comprehensive Transportation Program (CTP) that was passed by the Legislature in 1999.

Bill Pollock, president of the US-69 Highway Association of Kansas that has advocated for an improved highway for decades, said the entire project will enhance safety, stimulate economic growth and bolster population.

"I think we will see a stabilization of our population and an end to our decline - maybe even see a slight growth," said Pollock.

KDOT Secretary Deb Miller recognized the US-69 group for its long-term pursuit of the highway expansion and thanked the Governor, legislators and others for supporting the project.

She also thanked the Governor and the 2004 Legislature for preserving the CTP when the state's economic downturn and other factors threatened the funding for the program. But she cautioned against complacency.

"We should all recognize there are enormous pressures on the Legislature to find a solution for school finance. Some may think that tapping the highway fund could be part of the fix," said Miller.

"However, I am confident that since it was only last year that the Legislature renewed their commitment to this program, they won't consider raiding the highway fund a viable option."

The lead contractor for the 11-mile project is Ideker, Inc., of St. Joseph, Mo.

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