Road projects to slow county traffic temporarily

The road-building projects now taking shape in Marion County are only the beginning in a two-year effort at improve roads-an effort that may have you taking detours.

Some projects should be done relatively soon. The bridge repair being done on U.S. Highway 56 between Remington Road and Cedar Street in Marion should have new expansion joints in place within three weeks.

Until then, stoplights at the bridge will continue to close the roadway one lane at a time.

The overlay project on Indigo Road south of Hillsboro, commonly called the 13-mile road, should be completed before Christmas.

But the biggest construction event-rebuilding U.S. Highway 77 from Marion to Florence-will take about two years. Traffic will not be allowed on that stretch of roadway during that time, according to Joe Palic, area engineer with the Kansas Department of Transportation at Marion.

Before it’s done, Palic said, the highway reconstruction also will have included the construction of a round-about to replace the four-way stop at the intersection of highways 77 and 50 at Florence.

Drivers can run a four-way stop and cause accidents, Palic said, but a round-about makes a serious accident unlikely.

U.S. 50 won’t be closed for any of the rebuilding where it joins U.S. 77. Contractors will build temporary “shoo fly” detours for U.S. 50 traffic, Palic said.

The same project also likely will result in an upgraded county resurfacing of Sunflower Road from U.S. 50 into Third Street at Marion. Funding for that project is under negotiation between KDOT and the Marion County Board of Commissioners.

Palic said the state doesn’t tell the county where to upgrade roads to handle detour traffic.

“That’s up to the county,” he said.

The state will help compensate the county for the anticipated load of detour traffic-especially local traffic-that won’t be using the official detour that will go around U.S. 50 and come back over Highway 150 from Elmdale to rejoin highways 77 and 56.

Palic said bid-letting for U.S. 77 reconstruction will done in December. He doesn’t expect work to begin until winter weather abates, probably by mid-March.

“It’s a two-season project,” he said. “Once work begins next spring, 77 should be closed the rest of 2005. It will stay closed probably until the fall of 2006. Sometime in early 2006, we’ll do the round-about at Florence.”

No other major projects are planned for Marion County in the immediate future, Palic said, except for regular road overlays that haven’t been scheduled yet.

Palic said much of the work KDOT does is aimed at keeping highways safer, and he hopes the public will try to drive more safely, too.

He said the number of highway fatalities in the United States continues to average around 43,000 persons a year-a higher rate than nearly any other cause of loss that makes the news.

Safety is a major factor in the expansion joint work being done on the U.S. 56 bridge, he said. The bridge is more than 600 feet long, with steel girders that expand and contract as temperatures change, he said.

“A bridge this size can move several inches with heat change,” he said. “It’s obvious to the workers watching it every day. It literally grows as the day warms.”

Palic said the bridge is attached to fixed abutments, and the expansion joints allow it to expand and contract without buckling or twisting. The old expansion joints were made in the 1980s. New ones being installed are improved and should last longer.

The expansion joint replacements took only two weeks on the first side of the bridge, he said.

Meanwhile, equipment has been pulled in by Venture Corp. of Great Bend to begin the county’s $486,440 project to add a 1.5-inch overlay over 11.3 miles of Indigo Road.

Mike Olson, consulting engineer to the county with the firm of Kirkham-Michael of Ellsworth, said the 11.3 miles doesn’t equal the traditional “13-Mile Road” name of Indigo because part of the distance is taken out by the corporate limits of Hillsboro.

Olson said the overlay should be completed in 10 working days. The timeframe for the project was scheduled for between Sept. 27 and Nov. 1.

The 10 days are subject to weather interruptions.

Olson also is working with county commissioners to negotiate with KDOT about the contemplated overlay of Sunflower.

Olson said the county has done a good job in keeping up with a continual program to maintain surfaced roads. Costs on major arterial roads can currently up to $50,000 a mile.

More resurfacing can be expected in the county when weather permits.

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