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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has ordered the Kansas Department of Transportation to immediately reopen its study of cable barriers along Kansas Highway 10 in the wake of an April 16 double fatality crash.
Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson wrote a letter to Brownback last week asking him to direct KDOT to immediately install cable barriers along the divided highway from Lawrence east to Interstate 435.
“We’re pushing for cables, and we plan to keep this going,” said Ali Shutt, mother of 5-year-old Cainan Shutt, who was killed in the recent crash. “We’re very happy that at least we’ve gotten this.”
In his letter to KDOT Secretary Deb Miller, Brownback ordered her department to immediately begin designing the project to widen shoulders and add rumble strips along the Douglas County stretch of K-10, which has been done in Johnson County.
“While that may not have prevented this crash, it seems like a very important safety improvement. Please immediately begin designing these improvements so that the construction project can be completed by fall,” Brownback wrote in his letter sent to the media by KDOT on Monday. “Even if a decision is made later to install cable median barriers, it will take longer to accomplish that improvement than it will for this shoulder enhancement. So let’s get that going immediately.”
Cainan, a Eudora preschooler, and 24-year-old Ryan M. Pittman, both of Eudora, died in the crash when Pittman’s eastbound Toyota Camry crossed the grassy median near the Church Street interchange into the westbound lanes and struck a minivan driven by Cainan’s step-grandfather, Danny Basel.
Cainan’s sister, 23-month-old Courtlyn Shutt, is recovering from a broken vertebra, but she was released from Children’s Mercy hospital last week. His grandmother, Ann Basel, is also recovering from broken bones and a head injury at Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., family members said. The Basels are city of Lawrence public works employees.
Kansas Highway Patrol troopers said they are still investigating the cause of the crash, including the possibility that drugs contributed after a preliminary autopsy indicated marijuana, benzodiazepine and methadone were in Pittman’s system.
It was the third wrong-way fatality crash on K-10 since August. A groundswell of support has developed in the wake of the April 16 crash, including a Facebook page started by Jodi Jackson, a Eudora resident who commutes on K-10 daily, urging the state to install cable barriers in the median.
More than 3,500 people had clicked “like” on the page through Monday, and Ali Shutt said leaders of the effort were also asking people to post “Cables for Cainan” on KDOT’s Facebook page.
In his letter, Brownback also ordered Miller “without delay” to immediately begin an update on the 2008 study on cable barriers “on this section of K-10.” KDOT was set to re-open the study in 2012, officials said last week.
The 2008 study was based on traffic and accident counts and the width of medians. But for cable barrier installations, KDOT selected a 1-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 75 in Topeka and a 4-mile section of Kansas Highway 96 in Sedgwick County.
Brownback also said Miller should contact Hopson about his concerns and to form a local group that can be included in the discussion of K-10 and “provide helpful input in the decision-making process.”
Hopson, who is a journeyman lineman for Kansas City Power and Light, was in Bridgeton, Mo., Monday helping repair tornado damage.
He said was happy with Brownback’s response and that the effort seemed to be moving forward. But he said he didn’t want the improvements to stop with rumble strips in the median because he said there still wouldn’t be anything to impede a vehicle from crossing into the wrong lanes in certain circumstances, such as if a driver had a seizure or swerved to avoid a deer.
“I appreciate them doing that, but I don’t think that one part addresses the need for the barrier,” Hopson said.
The governor in his letter said the local committee could review the KDOT analysis and provide input on whether cable barriers should be recommended.
Hopson has already asked mayors of cities along K-10 to join him in the effort, and Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday will consider authorizing Mayor Aron Cromwell to sign a letter of support. Cromwell said last week he would like to see some type of barrier in K-10’s median.
By George Diepenbrock
Roadway conditions across Northeast Kansas range from spots to completely snowpacked. In the Kansas City metro, which includes Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties, roads are mostly snowpacked as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, KDOT reported. The same was true in Douglas County.
KDOT said nighttime crews have been out overnight plowing snow off the roadways. They have currently plowed back all mainlines and are now working on areas. Crews are only spot treating currently (salt or salt/sand mix). They plan to treat all roadways in the early morning hours (8-9 a.m. timeframe in metro areas) to hopefully begin some melting with sun and/or increase in traffic.
During the early morning commutes, drivers should still allow extra time, drive for the conditions on the roadways they are travelling on, and use caution as roadways will be slick in spots due to the frigid temps.
It has been in the family for generations, but federal and state officials are willing to say goodbye. The heirloom is the 73-year-old Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge on U.S Highway 59.
The historic steel truss bridge spans the Missouri River from Atchison to Winthrop, Mo.
It is being replaced by a new bridge currently under construction.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is soliciting bids to relocate the old structure, which was first known as the Free Bridge, then the Mo-Kan Bridge. In 1997, its name was changed to the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge. The bridge is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bidders may offer to relocate the entire 2,500-foot span or portions of it. The state will even provide up to $200,000 for relocation expenses.
“Technical difficulties and substantial costs should be anticipated,” a state news release on the project says.
The state is accepting relocation proposals until April 1. The new bridge is scheduled to be completed this fall, and the plan is to move the old bridge next year.
KDOT has a webcam on the bridge replacement project that shows the Earhart bridge plus construction of the new one at earthcam.com/clients/kansasDOT/.
By Scott Rothschild
The National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning for Johnson County, in effect from 6 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 to 6 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2. According to the NWS, freezing drizzle is expected to continue over the area throughout the evening with snow beginning in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Heavy snow between 10-14 inches is expected to accumulate through Wednesday morning.
In addition to the heavy snowfall, high winds between 25 and 40 mph are predicted on Wednesday morning, causing large snowdrifts and whiteout conditions.
The NWS discourages citizens from traveling if possible and encourages drivers to carry an emergency, survival kit in the vehicle if travel is necessary. Stranded drivers should remain in their vehicles and call *47 if stranded on a state-maintained roadway.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is reporting as of 8 a.m. today that roads and highways are partly to completely snowpacked and icy in Johnson, Leavenworth, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties and completely snowpacked and icy in Douglas County. Nearly 7 inches of snow was reported in the storm that began Wednesday afternoon and continued overnight. Light snow continued near dawn in much of the area, but winter storm warnings issued ahead of the storm have expired.
KDOT offers these driving tips for inclement winter weather:
- Take it slow.
- Allow plenty of extra drive time.
- Watch for icy/slick spots on the roadway; don’t assume that if the pavement looks clear, that it is.
- Buckle up every passenger, every time.
- If stranded, stay in your vehicle and call *47 on a state highway/interstate route (any highway that begins with I-, K-, and U.S.-), KTA on the Kansas Turnpike, or 911 at anytime.
For travel during winter storms, drivers should use caution, allow plenty of driving time, buckle up (every passenger, every time) and be sure to turn on their headlights, and turn off their cruise control. Drivers should also provide for a safe distance or cushion between themselves and vehicles ahead of them.
KDOT also remind drivers to stay a safe distance back from KDOT snow plows, and if drivers should pass the snow plows, to be extra careful and allow plenty of room as the trucks do travel slower than surrounding traffic.
See updated camera views of Kansas highways here.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is reporting that the major roadways for Johnson County are slick. They advise drivers to travel slowly and plan extra time for the evening commute. Drivers who get stuck in the poor conditions should remain in their vehicles and dial *47 for assistance on state-maintained roadways.
There's still time for 2010 to have a white Christmas and according to the National Weather Service, it's likely to happen. Precipitation could begin falling on the area tonight, after midnight. According to the NWS, this would be in the form of light snow flurries and sleet, with a total accumulation of less than a half inch.
The real potential for a white Christmas will come with a winter storm after sunrise on Friday, Dec. 24. This storm has the potential to leave De Soto with up to an inch of snow.
Those traveling for the holiday are encouraged to watch the forecast, according to the NWS, as conditions could change in the next 24 hours. Road conditions can be viewed online on the Kansas Department of Transportation's website and on mobile devices at http://511mm.ksdot.org/.
A committee looking into reconstruction of a major highway interchange in Johnson County is ready to begin the design phase. The Johnson County Gateway Project committee has completed traffic studies and public surveys regarding changes to the Interstate 35/Interstate 435/Kansas Highway10 interchange in western Johnson County.
The preferred concept for the project has been developed after interpreting data from online surveys and focus groups, transportation officials said at an Kansas Department of Transportation-sponsored open house Thursday in Lenexa.
“These highways see somewhere around 280,000 vehicles a day, so it was very important that we ask the drivers where they saw the problem areas,” said Cameron McGown with HNTB, the engineering consulting firm for the project.
Data from the public input revealed the main concerns to be Pflumm Road at I-35 and the I-435/K-10/Lackman Road interchange. These areas would be addressed in the first few phases of the multiphase plan the project committee has planned.
“This project is huge and very expensive. KDOT could never do everything that needs to be done here in one project,” said Kimberly Qualls, KDOT public affairs manager. “The team has broken this into four, smaller projects, which are more likely to receive funding.”
Funding approval won’t be announced until late February or early March of 2011. Total improvement costs, KDOT estimates, could be between $500 million and $1 billion, depending on the final recommendations.
“As far as KDOT projects across the state go, this one has been placed on the top tier in importance rankings, so we’re hopeful it’ll be funded in February,” Qualls said. “But there is new administration coming in and there are a lot of other projects needing funds too. We just have to wait and see.”
Follow the project as it progresses on the Johnson County Gateway Project website.
As Kansans prepare for holiday travel, so is the Kansas Department of Transportation. A new, mobile travel site will now allow travelers to check road conditions, see information on approaching work zones, as well as many other types of pertinent information. The information can be found at http://511mm.ksdot.org/.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is hosting an open house on Thursday, Nov. 18, to inform the public of the recommended improvement concept for the I-435/I-35/K-10 interchange, called the Johnson County Gateway. The open house will take place at the Lenexa Conference Center located at 11184 Lackman Road, from 5-7 p.m.
KDOT staff members and members of the Gateway project committee will be available to the public to answer questions about the project design and to hear suggestions from the community before the final plans are finished.
To learn more about the project, visit their website.