Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Johnson County Gateway completion celebrated with ribbon cutting

The ribbon was officially cut yesterday on the mega Johnson County Gateway project by distinguished event speakers (from left to right in photo above):  
KDOT Acting Secretary Richard Carlson; Kansas Governor Sam Brownback; Kansas Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer; FHWA Deputy Administrator David Kim;  
Johnson County Commissioner Ed Eilert; City of Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm; City of Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland; and Gateway Interchange Constructors Bill Clarkson

The large, complex Johnson County Gateway project, expected to fully open early next week, was celebrated by local, state and federal officials yesterday in Lenexa.

The ribbon-cutting at Crowne Plaza Hotel marked the substantial completion of Kansas’ first design-build project. The $288 million Gateway has been under construction for 2½ years at the convergence of Interstates 35 and 435 and K-10.

“The Gateway project will be a means of improved travel for tens of thousands of commuters. With the addition of 56 new highway lane miles and more than 27 new and rehabbed bridges, the project provides a conduit for increased economic development, safe travel and the movement of freight,” said Gov. Sam Brownback.

More than 150 people were in attendance to celebrate the completion of KDOT's first design-build project.
The Johnson County Gateway is set to open early next week to travelers. 
The Gateway is the state’s first major design-build project, a construction method authorized under the T-WORKS transportation program. Under this approach, the design-build team works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. This differs from the traditional design-bid-build method.

KDOT, along with the project management consultant team from HNTB, worked with Gateway Interchange Constructors, the design-builders who constructed the complex expansion project. GIC is a joint venture led by Kansas City, Mo.-based Clarkson Construction Co., which partnered with Kiewit Infrastructure Co. Additional key members of the team included design firms HDR Engineering and George Butler Associates.

“The design-build contracting approach allows states to deliver projects more quickly and more cost-effectively,” FHWA Deputy Administrator David S. Kim said. “Through our Every Day Counts initiative, the FHWA encourages innovations such as design build that save time and money for U.S. taxpayers.” 

More than 230,000 vehicles travel the Gateway corridor daily.

“With the number of vehicles expected to grow to 380,000 by 2040, drivers will now experience commutes with improved efficiency, decreased travel delays and safer travel through the I-435/I-35/K-10 interchange,” said Acting Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson.

For some highlights from yesterday's event check out this video:

For more information, visit the project website: and check out the video below for a closer look at this mega project.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What lies beneath: Preserving history

Ever wonder what lies under your feet?  For people living in Ellinwood, they already know the answer.

Sean Kelly, an Engineering Technician Senior from Great Bend goes down one of the stairways into the tunnel beneath the City of Ellinwood.

Running beneath the town is an abandoned underground city that was once home to barber shops, brothels, gambling joints, and a harness store. All these businesses were founded in the late 1800s (around 1887) and are connected by a series of well-built tunnels that are still open to tourists. 
One of the tunnel's stairways leading down into the city. 
KDOT began work on U.S. 56 in August and last month, KDOT staff had the opportunity to visit the underground city. During their tour, employees were able to document the condition and structural integrity of the tunnels.  KDOT has a goal of preserving the historic site as well as limiting any impact that construction could make.

While construction on the $16.9 million U.S. 56 bridge replacement and four-lane reconstruction project gets underway, there is always a chance that more tunnels could be unearthed. Regardless, this nearly 130-year-old city will still exist below the surface. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Winter ready Wednesdays: Salt Brine

Winter is coming. Despite the mild autumn weather the majority of the state is still experiencing, snow and ice will most likely arrive in our forecast. Fortunately, KDOT has an effective tool to help combat slick roads: Salt brine

Salt brine is a proactive approach to battling inclement weather. Last year, KDOT used approximately 5 million gallons to prepare road surfaces for snow and ice. Each of the 112 sub areas in Kansas has at least 1,000-10,000 gallon storage tanks.  But how is this salty mixture created and what determines how and when it is used?

Salt Brine is typically created by filling a mixing tank with rock salt and then adding water. 

The water then percolates through the rock salt. 

The salt/water mixture overflows into a holding tank, where it is measured with a hydrometer. If the brine reads 23% salt (or 91 % saturation) it is ready to be used on the roads.

Salt Brine is applied to the road surface. It is most effective when it has a chance to stick to the road after the water evaporates. 
KDOT doesn’t rely on salt brine for every weather event. It is most effective when it has a chance to stick to the roads after the brine water evaporates. If there is a rain changing to snow weather event, using salt brine wouldn’t work as effectively, the precipitation would wash it away.

Because the salt brine is only the most effective until temperatures reach 25 degrees, some areas around the state are starting to use sugar beet juice mixed with the salt brine. Beet juice, when added to the salt brine can help melt ice at near-zero degree temperatures.

As the winter months move in, KDOT will use a variety of methods to clear roads and infrastructure and help Kansans travel safely.  For the next several Wednesdays, we will share with you more ways that KDOT works to keep Kansas moving during inclement weather.

For up to date road conditions, check or dial 51

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving travel tips

Family, friends and food are great reasons for anyone to take to the road during the Thanksgiving holiday. Studies show that this is the busiest travel time of the year. In order to make it to the dinner table on time, make sure you are prepared by following these tips:

If your destination is far away, make sure that your vehicle is safe to drive. Have the vehicle’s fluids, windshield wipers and tires inspected prior to hitting the road.

Watch the skies. Bad weather can hit suddenly in parts of the country. Take caution when traveling in inclement weather.

Know where you are going before you leave.  Don’t rely solely on GPS.   Print out maps and directions, GPS service may become intermittent and having a backup is never a bad idea.

Make sure everyone is buckled in safely.

Keep your cell phone charged at all times in case of emergencies. If it is not being used for directions, make sure it is safely tucked away. Distracted driving can ruin your dinner plans.

Have an emergency kit handy. Make sure the contents include:
  • Battery powered Rradio
  • Flashlight
  • Blankets for everyone in your car
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Snacks
  • Maps
  • Tire repair kit

Don’t drink and drive and know your limits. If you are tired, upset or ill it is not a good idea to drive. Take a break if needed.

Give yourself extra time to make it to your destination. More travelers on the road mean more traffic congestion. Be patient, the winter holidays are right around the corner and no one appreciates a Grinch.

For up-to-date road conditions check out

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Throwback Thursday addresses Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week

Last December, we shared a chilling account of a traffic accident in Montana and the dangers emergency responders face while they assist at the scene of an accident or roadside emergency. This video could be hard to watch but the message is important.

November 14-18th is Incident Response Awareness Week. Every year, hundreds of emergency responders, including EMTs, firefighters, police officers, transportation and towing service providers
, are struck or killed on the job in secondary crashes. These crashes result in increased risk, traffic congestion and impact on communities nationwide. 

A majority of these secondary crashes could be avoided if distracted driving were

They have our back, do we have theirs? Watch out for responders at traffic incidents: Lives depend on it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Oh Deer Part II: What to do in a car/deer crash

The holidays are approaching quickly, and travel across the state is expected to increase. More travelers could mean an increase in deer/vehicle crashes. 

Last month, we provided a few tips on how to be alert for deer and avoid a collision with one of these animals.

Unfortunately, because deer can be unpredictable or because weather conditions are not favorable, crashes involving vehicles and deer do happen. What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?

  • If you encounter a situation where a deer suddenly jumps in front of your vehicle it is better to hit the deer rather than swerve to avoid it. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, more serious crashes happen as a result of swerving away from the animal. 
  • After a crash, slow down and pull onto the shoulder. Turn on your emergency flashers
  • DO NOT get out of your vehicle unless you have to. Staying inside the vehicle and buckled up is your best protection against a secondary crash.
  • If you must exit your vehicle, wait for traffic to clear and stand as far from the road as possible.
  • Do not try to remove the deer from the roadway unless you are sure it is dead. If the animal is still alive, it could be dangerous. 
  •  Call 911 or *47 and tell the dispatcher where you are and if the deer is in the road.
  •  Don't worry about the animal, law enforcement will have it removed. 

For more information on deer/vehicle safety click here

Monday, November 14, 2016

Chinese Delegation visits KDOT

A Chinese Delegation visits with KDOT Executive staff in an effort to learn and exchange information about transportation. 

Sharing knowledge helps improve transportation around the world. The KDOT executive staff met with a government delegation from China on Thursday. KDOT was able to share and exchange information relating to how right of way is purchased. The delegates were also interested in learning about Kansas airports. The Executive Staff members explained how the agency has different divisions and roles that help keep Kansas transportation moving. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sending Care: Ways to brighten a service member's day

Being away from family and friends can be really hard.  Being away from family and friends and in the middle of a combat zone can be even more so.  For many who serve overseas in the military, this time of year can be extremely difficult. Fortunately, there are millions of caring people who send care packages to encourage our service members.

If you have never sent a care package there can be a lot of questions about what to send and how to find a service member in need. In yesterday’s blog we discussed tips on how to protect you and your wallet from fraudulent charities.  If you use those tools you can easily find a charity that you can send care packages through either by helping to fund the organization, or even by adopting a soldier.

If you have the opportunity to adopt a solider (or if you know a friend or relative is serving), here is a list of some items that are needed and wanted:

Personal care and grooming items: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, cotton swabs, shaving lotion, disposable razors, shampoo feminine products, and tissues. Disposable hand warmers, goggle-style sunglasses, cotton socks and undergarments are also recommended.
Food and drinks: If you plan on sending food, make sure it’s sealed and cannot be contaminated by soaps and liquids. Eating soggy soapy cookies could dampen anyone’s spirits.  In fact, it is encouraged to send non-perishable packaged goods. As shipment time varies and could take a while to reach a service member.
It is recommended that if you know of something that a military member can’t get overseas to include it, such as their favorite condiment and seasonings.
Powered drink mixes:. Hot cocoa, instant coffee, tea, sports drink mixes and water flavor enhancers.
Reading and creative materials: Paperback books, comics and magazines, word puzzles, coloring books and crossword puzzles, sketchbooks and notebooks. (Pens and pencils would be a good addition as well)
Games: Small sports toys such as foam footballs and basketballs, Frisbees, playing cards and hacky sacks.

Electronics: mp3 players with loaded music, small earbuds, CDs, DVDs, handheld games. Include AA and D batteries. But remove the batteries so the appliance doesn’t turn on.
Sentimental items:  Hand-written letters, or photos of how life is going at home are highly valued by service members. Consider using USB drives with video and photos of loved ones saved, include blank ones as well.

These are just a few ideas of what to send our armed forces during this time of year. We encourage you to do your research and find the charity that can serve you and your armed forces member the best. If you are mailing your own be sure to check up on what size of a box can be shipped. Many care package guidelines recommend not going larger than a shoe box.

It is also strongly encouraged to check with where your armed forces member is stationed. Some materials simply are not allowed in certain countries.

If you are packing items that need to be protected, consider using packaging that also can be functional. (Such as popped popcorn in baggies, bean bag toys that can be given to local children, packages of tissues, socks or newspapers.)

Check out these links for more information on care packages:

We at KDOT would like to thank our military who have served and who are still serving. Have a safe Veteran’s Day. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Choosing a charity: Tools for supporting veterans or active military safely

Part of the Russell Kansas Veteran's Memorial - designed by Mallory Goeke

Friday is Veteran’s Day and citizens across the country honor military and veterans at ceremonies, luncheons and parades. Some even use this time of year to send care packages to members of our military. Those who partake in this activity may have a couple of questions: How can you spot the fake charities from the real ones? And what do you send to our military serving overseas.

In this two-part blog series, we will address both of those questions. Today, we start with keeping yourself (and your wallet) safe while you choose a legitimate charity to support. According to, there are steps to figure out how real a charity is:

Do your research: Many veterans and military charities do a great job at providing encouragement and care to our nation’s heroes. At the same time, there are some organizations that take advantage of supporters and scam them into giving money away.

Check state and federal charity lists:  If a charity is the real deal, they should be registered with the government. Simply using a search engine with the “Your State + Charity List” should help.  You can find Kansas’ charity list here:

Charities should be listed as 501 (c ) (3) non-profit organization. There are requirements that a charity has to meet in order to be listed with the IRS.

How much is actually used for what the charity is advertising? Real charities should be transparent. They understand the value of your dollar and are upfront and honest when it comes to what their charity actually does and how your money will used. There are also third-party websites that monitor, score and compare how they spend their money versus how the money is used to fund the charity.  Listed below are a couple of charity-watch websites:

Beware of unsolicited and overeager requests: Charities always ask for help in some way. That is to be expected. However, if the organization is trying too hard to pitch its purpose there could be a reason for that. Don’t commit to giving money over the phone, and if you are being solicited in person, it is OK to take time to research the charity before you send them your money. Ask the solicitor if they have a flyer or business card. The charity will still be thankful to your contribution a day later.

Never send cash or give out your Social Security number, birthday or other sensitive information. Bottom line: Protect yourself. Cash can’t be traced back and it can be easily lost. Giving out too much information could be used to steal your identity.

Now that you have the tools to protect yourself from scams, come back tomorrow for a list of items that our military serving overseas need.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kansas UAS program tests drones for bridge, tower inspections

KDOT Aviation and Bridge Inspection teams use a UAS to get a closer look at a structure.

The new Kansas Unmanned Aerial Systems program started test flights last Friday to find ways to use drones for bridge and tower inspections. 

“Our Aviation and Bridge inspection teams are doing great work in testing drones to enhance the safety of KDOT workers and improve cost efficiencies,” said Acting Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson. “We believe UAS may reduce the need to place our engineers in potentially dangerous situations and we intend to pursue every opportunity that makes them more efficient.”

 This is the first of several cooperative efforts KDOT is leading to employ new UAS technologies that increase public safety.

 “It’s important we keep safety and personal privacy our top priorities for this program,” said KDOT’s UAS Director Bob Brock. “KDOT inspectors working directly with UAS operators is an exciting first step that we will follow with many more flight tests to ensure we meet the stringent requirements associated with bridge inspection. 

“We also believe UAS is an industry that creates new jobs to help Kansas graduates stay in Kansas, so we are working with universities and other state agencies to investigate additional opportunities for engagement that will be announced in the coming months,” he said. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

South Lawrence Trafficway to open Wednesday

The Eastern Leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway took nearly three years to complete and will open to travelers on Wednesday.

“Wow, What a day!” Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx said at the Southwest Lawrence Trafficway ribbon-cutting on Friday. His words echoed the feelings of many who have worked or waited for this important project that completes a connection between K-10 east of Lawrence and the Kansas Turnpike on the city’s west side.

Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Acting Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, local officials and others were in attendance at the ribbon-cutting at the new K-10 and 23rd Street interchange.
A Ribbon Cutting Celebration took place on Friday. The SLT will open for travelers Wednesday. 

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating to call this occasion momentous. In fact, that might be understating it,” said Secretary Carlson. “I’m sure there are a lot of you who wondered whether we would ever get to this point.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, after more than two decades of planning, debates and construction, the wait will be over and the east leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway will officially open for travelers.

The four-lane, six-mile freeway will provide an important connection for Douglas, Johnson, and Shawnee counties. The 6-mile, $140 million project will have many benefits, including:

  • Congestion relief for travelers
  • Travel time savings
  • Market access expansion
  • Increased safety

“We have been committed to the success of this project, which will bring major economic benefit and prosperity to the region,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “We never lost sight of the importance of this effort not only for commuters and commerce but also for the thousands of students and residents who have improved access to the Baker Wetlands to enjoy and learn more about nature.”

Environmental benefits are also a huge part of this project. Although finishing the SLT did mean that KDOT had to use approximately 58 acres of wetlands, a mitigation package greatly expands the original wetlands.  The $16 million mitigation package created or restored 317 acres of wetlands, 37 acres of upland prairie, and 16 acres of riparian habitats.
A new educational facility, including a wetlands education and research center opened last year and is operated by Baker University.

Part of Friday's celebration included a Public Walk-Bike event along a half-mile stretch of K-10. 
Hiking and biking trails have also been added.
To view an aerial map that shows traffic flow movements at the new K-10 interchanges at 23rd Street, Haskell Avenue and U.S. 59/Iowa Street, please click on this link: K-10 SLT East Leg Traffic Flow Map

Thursday, November 3, 2016

#IAMKDOT: John Gatz

This month's #IAMKDOT  feature is John Gatz.

Gatz is a Senior Engineering Technician from District 5 and has worked at KDOT for almost 15 years. He began his career as an Engineering Technician. 

Gatz would describe himself as a Father, a son, husband and a golf enthusiast.

This illustration shows Gatz inspecting the quality and construction of the rumble strips on US-400 in Eastern Pratt Co. 

#IAMKDOT is an illustration project that recognizes KDOT employees who work hard to ensure Kansans enjoy safe roads, rails and skies. Safe and successful transportation also helps Kansans financially. Some employees of KDOT fill dangerous but necessary positions and this project also serves as a reminder for travelers to slow down and remember that underneath those neon vests, are individuals with families and hobbies waiting for them at home.

Do you know a KDOT worker that deserves recognition? Nominations are open! Email today to get started! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

When left alone, kids and cars are a dangerous combination

Cooler weather may be returning to the area soon and KDOT would like to remind drivers that the danger of leaving children alone in vehicles is still present.

According to the, even when the temperature outside is mild, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to deadly levels.

Hyperthermia aside, there are other risks to leaving children unattended in cars. Left alone, small children can face danger by accidentally setting the car in motion, rolling the windows up  and getting stuck or strangled, or leaving the vehicle altogether., an organization dedicated to keeping children safe in and around motor vehicles, has created a safety checklist for individuals driving with young children in the car: created a checklist for drivers who are traveling with kids. Look before you Lock.

They have also implemented a unique reminder: Place a stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when not in use. When a child is present in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to the front passenger seat. Sometimes, a visual reminder is all that is needed to keep kids safe. 

A stuffed animal in the passenger seat can be a great reminder that a child is buckled in behind you.

Recently, a 4th grader named Sophie, created a device that connects the child’s safety belt to the car keys to help remind those who traveling with youngsters to not leave them alone in the vehicle.

Check out Sophie’s video below for more information on how you can create your own device below:

The Holiday season is upon us and distractions are everywhere. In the hustle and bustle, remember to Look before you Lock. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bus drivers compete in 2nd Annual Kansas Transit Roadeo

Kansas Transit Roadeo participants prepare to start an event. 

Bus drivers from across Kansas wrangled buses around obstacles during the Second Annual Kansas Transit Roadeo held Sunday, September 25 in Lawrence, Kansas.  The roadeo is a hands-on training event that highlights the skill set and camaraderie of transit drivers across the state. The drivers completed a series of obstacle courses, including backing up into tight spaces and maneuvering around tricky corners, while judges measured and observed their techniques, said Anne Lowder, training and outreach coordinator for the Kansas Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP).

A roadeo participant assists an individual in a wheelchair onto a lift during one of the events. 
“Bus driving is one of those skills that can always be improved. You can always be learning,” Lowder said.  “The transit roadeo shows off individual skills in a fun way, but it also provides the opportunity to demonstrate just how safe, knowledgeable, and customer-friendly transit drivers are when it comes to providing transportation to Kansas passengers.”

Lowder said the event also features skills such safely assisting an individual in a wheelchair onto a lift and into the bus, and pre-inspection of a bus. Part of the event includes outfitting a bus with various defects that the contestants must find.
Bob Nugent, director of Lawrence Transit, is one of the members of the Kansas Transit Roadeo Planning Committee and also a judge for the event. He noted that while the roadeo is a competition, it is lighthearted. “The event is for the employees who want to bring their families and show them what they do on a regular basis."      

This year 19 drivers from around the state competed. The 2016 Kansas Transit Roadeo winners were Michelle Brown, Topeka Metro, who took first place with a score of 698; Gabriel Valdovino, Unified Government Transit, who took 2nd place with a score of 670; and Brenda Martinez, City of Dodge City, who took third place with a score of 664. 
A judge observes a participant during the Kansas Transit Roadeo competition. 

The event was co-sponsored by Kansas Department of Transportation, University of Kansas Transportation Center, Kansas RTAP, ETSC, ATA Bus, Waters True Value, Kansas Truck, KPTA, GTM, Assurance Partners, Philadelphia Insurance, KCATA, Lawrence Transit, MV Transportation, Inc., The Merc Co-op, Lawrence CVB, and Unified Government of Kansas City/Wyandotte County.The 2016 Kansas Transit Roadeo was a great success, and plans are already under way for the next roadeo, in 2017.