Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Temperatures are rising, drive prepared!

By Ashley Tammen,
Northcentral Kasnas Public Affairs Manager 

We are still in the middle of summer and while you may already know the dangers of driving in the winter and how the cold weather affects your vehicle. Do you know the dangers of driving in extreme heat? Just like winter conditions, extreme heat can also take a toll on your vehicle.

According to a few suggestions from GEICO, it is important to check the following on your vehicle before hitting the road this summer:
  • Make sure your radiator is working properly and is filled with fluid to prevent your vehicle from overheating.
  • Double check your tires, are they properly inflated?
  • Make sure your air conditioner is in good working order.
  • If you are planning to travel long distance, plan your trip for early in the morning or late in the evening. The weather is a bit cooler and will make it easier on your car’s engine.

In addition to taking care of your vehicle in the hot weather, it is especially important to take care of your passengers. Today is National Heat Stroke Awareness Day — Did you know, a closed car can heat up well over one hundred degrees in a very short period? You should never leave children or pets unattended in a hot vehicle and always set a reminder to look before you lock up, one idea is to place your phone or purse in the back seat. According to State Farm, when driving in the summertime you should:

Source: NHTSA 

  • Always use the proper safety restraints for all occupants.
  • Stop every few hours to let all occupants stretch their legs.
  • If you become drowsy you should pull over to a safe location to rest until you feel able to continue the drive.
  • If you’re traveling with kids, pack a cooler with healthy snacks like water, fruit, nuts, and granola.

With these tips you can safely prepare to hit the road this summer. And as always, buckle up and drive safe!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Geometric Improvement project in Coffeyville reconfigures a major intersection

The intersection of 11th  Street and Willow Street in Coffeyville is feeling the summer heat as construction is underway and will be widened with new turn lanes and traffic signals. The City of Coffeyville is reconstructing U.S. 166 at the intersection between Spruce and Elm streets as part of a Geometric Improvement (GI) project. 

Earthwork continues on the eastbound lanes of 11th Street (U.S. 166) in Coffeyville. Two-way traffic is flowing on the westbound lanes.

Restaurants and businesses line both sides of the roadway, which is also known as U.S. 166. In the midst of it all, two-way traffic flows on westbound U.S. 166, workers grade and dig and pour concrete on the eastbound lanes.

Coffeyville Public Workers Director Chuck Shively said the completed project would result in smoother traffic flow. 

The city of Coffeyville is reconstruction U.S. 166 at the intersection between Spruce and Elem streets. 

"The old signals were becoming obsolete and the detector loops did not function correctly,” Shively said. He explained that the intersection of 11th Street and Willow Street is used as a detour route several times a year when U.S. 169 (South Walnut Street) south of 11th Street is closed for railroad crossing repairs or other construction activities.

KDOT is funding 90 percent of the project cost. The city’s share is 10 percent, plus any costs above $1 million. The GI project was awarded to Mission Construction Company, Inc., of St. Paul. The cost of construction is approximately $1.3 million. 

KDOT is funding 90 percent of the project cost of the Geometric Improvement project.

Shively said that work is progressing well as weather permits. Officials anticipate an October completion.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Motoring Monday - Big Basin

A pretty view can be seen from the southeast rim of the Big Basin. Credit: Keith Stokes
The Big Basin rim spring. Credit: Kansas Sampler
To the casual traveler, a trip through southwest Kansas on U.S. 160/283 offers the wide-open spaces and beautiful vistas that Kansas is known for.  But about halfway between Englewood and Minneola, a more astute observer might notice what appears to be a basin or depression on the east side of the highway and a Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism sign announcing the entrance to the Big Basin Prairie Preserve Wildlife Area. The Preserve, which includes Big Basin, Little Basin and Jacob’s Well, is marked by formations of white gypsum, dolomite, brick red shales, siltstones and sandstones.
Geologists estimate the basins formed in the last few thousand years when gypsum and salt formations dissolved and collapsed several hundred feet below the surface leaving naturally formed sinks. Big Basin is a mile-wide sinkhole which is more than 100 feet deep.  While it initially looks like a valley, it is entirely surrounded by higher ground. 
Above, the path to Jacob's Well.
Below is the well. Credit: Keith Stokes
Located just east of Big Basin is Little Basin, a second sinkhole that is about 280 yards in diameter and 35 feet from rim to floor.  In Little Basin, visitors will find the path leading to Jacob’s Well and the Living Waters Monument originally built by Plains Indians to mark the well. Jacob’s Well is actually a sinkhole within a sinkhole and has never been known to go dry.
In addition to its unique topography and geology, the area is rich in history and has attracted visitors for hundreds of years including prehistoric people and European settlements. 
In the 1800s, the area was often an encampment for settlers, cowboys and Indians, including the Northern Cheyenne who camped here in 1878 as they were fleeing re-settlement in Oklahoma. Today, visitors will find mixed grass prairie, rolling hills, a bison herd and stunning views. 





Thursday, July 25, 2019

A wider U.S. 166 bridge at Arkansas City is progressing

Drone Footage of the progress on the U.S. 166 Bridge

By Tim Potter
KDOT South Central Kansas Public Affairs Manager

As KDOT’s project manager for the U.S. 166 bridge at Arkansas City, Robin Gregory has seen plenty of progress – and a copperhead snake up close – during construction of a 980-foot structure over the Arkansas River.

Gregory has watched crews work around flooding this summer, keeping the project in line for a November completion.

“We have fought mud,” she said. Before that, “I’ve seen these guys work in rain and snow.”

She’s had to stay nimble herself. One summer day, while checking flooding near a bridge abutment, Gregory encountered a copperhead snake just a few feet away. “I’m done!” she thought. The snake hissed. She retreated. “After that,” Gregory said, “everywhere I walk, I watch.”

It was just one instance in a 28-year career for the KDOT veteran. She is an Engineering Technician Specialist performing the duties of Construction Engineer with the District Five, Area Three office in Winfield.

The new bridge will offer travelers a wider east/west span over the river. It will replace a bridge built in 1937. The old bridge limited oversize loads because it was 22 feet wide; the new bridge will be 44 feet wide, with ample shoulders.
The new bridge is a steel-beam-supported structure, with nine piers across the river. It took a methodical process to drill through the riverbed and set the piers into bedrock.
With the main support structure in, crews have been concentrating on the deck. It takes methodical work and inspection, too. A precise number of steel reinforcing bars have been fitted into a crisscross pattern. The bars, coated with epoxy to keep them from corroding, are hand-tied together. A massive finishing machine consolidates concrete into the grid set inside the bridge formwork.

As Gregory walked over temporary decking on a recent day, she pointed out massive bolts that help connect the underlying structure. The bolts get checked to make sure they have the right tightness.

The bridge is a $6,368,390 project.

Gregory credited the primary contractor, A.M. Cohron & Son Inc., based in Atlantic, Iowa, with an office in Emporia. “They’ve been exceptionally good,” she said.
Area Engineer Andrew Wilson pilots a drone that regularly flies over the bridge, recording the progress.

For Gregory, the bridge will be her last project before she retires.
“I’m proud to have this be my last one,” she said.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Tourism cycling helps rural communities

A bike along a rural Kansas road during the Trans Am Race. Photo courtesy: Gert Van Kerkhove 

Cycling is more than just a sport in the U.S.  According to the Adventure Cycling Association, it is one of the fastest growing types of outdoor recreation and tourism activities nationwide.  

With an estimated 48 million people bicycling recreationally per year in the U.S., cycling contributes $96.7 billion per year to the economy, improves health, increases health-related savings, decreases traffic congestion and improves environmental health. 

Many touring cyclists travel through Kansas each year via U.S. Bicycle Route 76 (USBR 76) also known at the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, one of the most well-known and most popular cross country bicycle routes.  This 4,223-mile route from Astoria, Ore., to Yorktown, Va., meanders across the Kansas plains from just west of Tribune on K-96 at the Colorado state line to just east of Pittsburg on K-126 at the Missouri state line.  

In addition to USBR 76, cycling tourists can often be found on Route 66, the Flint Hills and Prairie Spirit rails and many other non-interstate roads and highways in Kansas. Touring cyclists often choose low-traffic, scenic roads through less traveled areas because these roads and rural communities are easier to travel, offer local services and the opportunity to meet local residents.  

Cyclists tend to travel slower, linger longer and enjoy a community or area for several days, often spending 40 percent more in a community than motorists or other tourists.  

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, bike tourism accounts for an estimated $83 billion in trip-related spending in the U.S each year.  

Cycling tourists who come through Kansas are from across the U.S., but are also from countries like Germany, Belgium, Italy and Australia.  Wherever they are from, they bring the world to rural communities while choosing to see the U.S., “at their own pace and with their own eyes and not through the windshield,” as one German cyclist put it.

As you travel this summer, remember that cyclists are motorists too.  Be sure to share the road.  Take a second look and follow the Kansas three-foot law requiring motorists to give cyclists at least three feet of space at all times and only pass when safe to do so.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Cities to receive $18 million for road improvement projects

More than 20 projects aimed at improving intersections and roads in Kansas cities have been selected for funding through the Kansas Department of Transportation’s City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP), which funds improvements to state highways that extend through cities.
The cities will receive a combined total of approximately $18 million in funding under the CCLIP for these 23 projects. This total includes $7 million in state fiscal year 2021 and $11 million in state fiscal year 2022.
“KDOT was able to add $5 million into the CCLIP because of the additional $50 million that the Governor provided as a one-time transfer from the State General Fund,” said Deputy Secretary Lindsey Douglas. “Communities then provided an additional $6.5 million in matching funds to create a total of $11.5 million beyond the initial plan to expand the amount invested in various projects.”
“This is a popular program with communities and allows them an opportunity to receive funding that improves safety, capacity and operational needs as well as increase economic development in their region,” said Julie Lorenz, Kansas Secretary of Transportation.
Under the CCLIP, a city is required to contribute up to 25 percent of the project cost based on its population, though some cities contribute significantly more. Cities under 2,500 in population aren’t required to provide a match. Projects in this program may fall into one of three different categories including Surface Preservation (SP), Pavement Restoration (PR) or Geometric Improvement (GI).
SP projects involve maintenance work such as resurfacing and are funded up to $300,000 per project. PR projects typically involve full-depth pavement replacement without changes to the overall geometric characteristics and may also address drainage issues. GI projects address geometric issues such as adding turn lanes, improving intersections or modifying the lane configuration to address capacity. The PR and GI categories are funded up to $1 million per project.
For the state fiscal year 2021, the city, category and amount awarded include:
Concordia                 Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Gardner                     Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Hays                           Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Independence          Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Norton                        Geometric Improvement                 $1,000,000
Pratt                            Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Winfield                     Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000

For the state fiscal year 2022, the city, category and amount awarded include:
Cimarron                   Pavement Restoration                    $800,000
Colby                          Surface Preservation                      $300,000
Dodge City                Geometric Improvement                 $1,000,000
Ellsworth                   Geometric Improvement                 $600,000
Emporia                     Geometric Improvement                 $600,000
Garden City               Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Gardner                     Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Garnett                       Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Herington                  Surface Preservation                      $300,000
Lyons                         Surface Preservation                      $300,000
McLouth                    Pavement Restoration                    $500,000
McPherson               Geometric Improvement                 $1,000,000
Minneola                   Geometric Improvement                 $1,000,000
Newton                      Surface Preservation                      $300,000
Phillipsburg               Pavement Restoration                    $1,000,000
Yates Center             Surface Preservation                      $300,000

Monday, July 22, 2019

Motoring Monday - Tallgrass Prairie

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve covers 11,000 acres, most of it is in the Flint Hills.

If you’re traveling through north central Kansas and want to stretch your legs while taking in some history, there’s no better place to go on a hike then the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The prairie once covered more than 170 million acres of beautiful tallgrass in the United States. Unfortunately, nearly all the prairie has been plowed under or lost by development of towns except for a vast majority found in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The preserve offers 11,000 acres of the prairie with 40 miles of nature trails and eight historic buildings to tour.

These nature trails allow you to experience the prairie first-hand but still near visitor services. The Southwind Nature Trail is a 1.75-mile-long view of what makes up the preserve and starts in front of the Spring Hill Ranch house. The trail winds its way through the upper prairie, across a tree lined creek bed, and up gently rolling hills of an array of grasses to beautiful vistas.

The Bottomland Trail offers a trailhead kiosk at the beginning with either ¾- or ½-mile trail loops to choose from. This trail features both natural and cultural history with five interpretive way side panels, benches, and a comfort station. And lastly, the Fox Creek trail is a 6.1-mile round trip northern extension from the Bottomland Trail in the Fox Creek area. In the fall, the grass can reach about six feet tall here.

Throughout these multiple trails in the prairie you can experience a wide range of wildlife including turkey, white-tail deer, a variety of bird species, and even a herd of bison which can be found in the Windmill pasture.

If you’re not looking for a hike but want to view the prairie’s history, the prairie also offers guided bus tours, free of charge. The tours must be scheduled in advance, are 60-90 minutes long, and run from the last Saturday in April through the last Sunday in October each year, weather and staffing available.

One of the best times to visit the Tallgrass Prairie is when the grass turns a golden brown and reaches its peak height in late September or early October. The prairie is located two miles north of the intersection of U.S. 50 and K-177 just west of Strong City. You can visit for more information.  

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The process of a bridge repair

U.S. 81 over Kyle Railroad in Ottawa County is in the process of being repaired.
The project is expected to wrap up next spring.

By Ashley Tammen
North Central Kansas Public Affairs Manager

We often receive comments and questions about how long it takes to repair bridges. To properly explain the repair process, we must explain what makes up a bridge.

Bridges are composed of three basic elements: the foundation, the substructure that holds up the bridge deck and the superstructure or bridge deck. The superstructure is made up of several layers of reinforced steel with steel girders throughout. Bridge repairs can encompass repairing one of those elements or even up to all three — including the concrete surface and guardrails can break down over time.

One example of a bridge repair is on U.S. 81 over Kyle Railroad in Ottawa County. The superstructure needs repaired due to the wear and tear of concrete.

“Where there is damage on the bottom side of a bridge, you risk moisture coming in underneath. When maintenance staff goes to patch potholes on top, it doesn’t last long due to the moisture and the movement of the bridge,” said Phillip Nelson, Engineering Technician Senior in Salina. 

There are several steps that must be taken so the bridge deck can be replaced, which occur in multiple phases.

During the first phase, two temporary median crossovers are installed with drainage structures and inside shoulders so traffic can be rerouted to the opposite bridge while one bridge is being repaired.

Next, the existing U.S. 81 bridge will get an temporary asphalt overlay to help prevent damage while the two-way traffic is driving on the bridge and temporary guardrails will be installed.

During phase two, traffic will be reduced to one lane and temporarily detoured to the southbound U.S 81 bridge using both crossovers. Once traffic has been rerouted off the bridge under construction, the contractor will remove all the old concrete leaving only the steel girders.

The steel girders will then be repainted, and new concrete will be replaced above them. After repairing the bridge, permanent guardrails will be installed on the south ends with temporary guardrails on the north ends for two-way traffic.

Finally, during the last phase, traffic will be moved over to the newly-repaired south bridge using median crossovers. Once traffic has been rerouted, the last bridge will get repaired. 

The last step is to repaint the stripes on the repaired bridge, and U.S. 81 will be open for traffic. It is expected to be completed next spring.

We urge all motorists to slow down in work zones and give our crews room to work. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

New U.S. 50/U.S. 281 roundabout is taking shape

Traffic meets at the current U.S. 50/U.S. 281 intersection, which is being converted to a roundabout.

By Tim Potter
South Central Kansas Public Affairs Manager

On a summer day, the intersection of U.S. 50 and U.S. 281 looks and sounds like a busy place for a remote spot.

Just beyond the intersection, in Stafford County, it’s wide-open country – 3 miles south of St. John, 48 miles west of Hutchinson, 28 miles south of Great Bend. It’s a quilt of tree lines and crops, cattle and cattails. For stretches, the only movement on the hot pavement is tiny toads trying to hop from one side to another.

At the intersection of the two highways, traffic across a wide expanse of south-central Kansas converges, engines whirring, gears shifting. Big rigs rumble straight through without having to stop, blowing east and west on U.S. 50, while north and south traffic on U.S. 281 is signaled to stop before rolling on. At times, several vehicles line up before east-west traffic clears.

But everything about that key intersection is about to change in a big way: Around four weeks from now, the first key temporary change will be that traffic in all directions will have to stop before proceeding. That’s so construction can continue on a roundabout interchange.

The Kansas Department of Transportation is overseeing the project. Venture Corp., of Great Bend, is the primary contractor for the $5.2 million project.

The roundabout is designed to improve safety – with less chance of a high-speed, T-bone collision – and to ease the way for oversized trailers carrying, for example, huge wind-farm parts. Now, big loads have a hard time maneuvering through the square interchange.

Construction Engineer James Middleton, left, and Engineering Technician Specialist Doug Coates check roundabout plans.

Roundabouts help improve safety because they cause traffic to slow down, said James Middleton, a South Central Kansas Construction Engineer based in Pratt. The 15-year KDOT veteran is overseeing inspection of the interchange project. The project coordinator is Doug Coates, Engineering Technician Specialist has more than 30 years of field experience.

The roundabout will be composed of two spheres: a diamond-shaped outer road for the largest loads and a separate circular road inside the diamond for regular vehicles. Vehicles enter the circle by yielding to the left.

Crews are building legs of the diamond now. For a while, drivers will be using temporary roadway at the intersection. Traffic will be shifted around as the roundabout gets constructed in phases.

For visibility, the completed roundabout will be illuminated with 16 street lights – four at each approach.

The contractor’s schedule has a completion date of Dec. 13.

Check out our drone video of the project here:

Monday, July 15, 2019

Motoring Monday - Greensburg’s Big Well Museum: cool in more ways than one

The Big Well Museum is in the town of Greensburg, off U.S. 54, in south-central Kansas.

The Big Well was greatly improved after
a devastating tornado struck Greensburg in 2007.
What better place to cool off on a hot day than a place that bills itself as the world’s largest hand-dug well?

The Big Well, with a spiral staircase, goes 109 feet deep and stretches 32 feet wide in the town of Greensburg. That’s off U.S. 54 in Kiowa County, in south-central Kansas. Workers completed the well in 1888, using picks and shovels, lining the walls with stone. It’s one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.

The well provided drinking water for Greensburg until 1932 and became a tourist attraction in 1937.
Since the 1970s, the well has been recognized as a national museum and a water works landmark.
The well has been a tourist attraction since
the late 1930s.

Now, the well is operated by the City of Greensburg and is known as the Big Well Museum & Visitors Information Center. The tourist site was greatly improved a few years after a tornado devastated Greensburg in 2007.

In the late 1880s, workers lined the well with stone.
The attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Cost: $8 for adults; $6 for seniors 60 and older, military and children ages 5 to 12; a family pass, for two adults and children under 18, is $25. For more information, go to

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Local consult meetings to take place in August

KDOT's Local Consult Tour will take place in late August. 
Transportation Local Consult meetings are coming to a town near you this August!  

“These meetings are an important opportunity for stakeholders to share information about needed transportation projects,” said Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz. 

“These projects will help shape the future of transportation in  Kansas.”

Local consult meetings will be broken up in two parts:

New projects: During the first hour, KDOT would like to hear from stakeholders about new transportation projects that are needed. During the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force meetings held last fall, participants testified about project needs that totaled more than $18 billion.

If there are new projects that need to be shared, or if this is additional information about one of the projects already on the list, please plan to participate during that first hour. 

Scenario planning:  In the second two hours, KDOT will work with all stakeholders to envision the future of Kansas by reviewing facts and trends, discussing risks and exploring alternative future possibilities. 

Using scenario planning approaches, KDOT will examine long-term and emerging trends, how they could impact Kansas’ transportation system and what infrastructure investments can be made to help future-proof our infrastructure and cultivate prosperous, healthy communities for all Kansans.

Scenario planning is at the forefront of national planning practices and these discussions will provide valuable information for the next Kansas Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

There will be another round of Local Consult meetings later this fall. At those meetings, KDOT will build upon the discussions from this summer to determine regional priorities for future transportation investments.

“Collaboration is at the heart of this process – just as it was for the development of the T-WORKS program,” Lorenz said.  “But a lot has changed in the last 10 years, and it’s time for the next transportation program to take full advantage of accelerating rate of change in technology and growing interest in transit, aviation, rail, broadband and economic vitality."

KDOT will be visiting Salina, Hutchinson, Independence, Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Dodge City and Hays during the first rounds of meetings.  Additional details about logistics will be provided in the coming weeks.

The August dates and locations are:

Monday, August 19, 2019
1:30- 4:30 pm
Northcentral Region—Salina
Kansas Highway Patrol Academy
2025 East Iron
Salina, KS 67401

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Southcentral Region—Hutchinson
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Atrium Hotel & Conference Center
1400 North Lorraine St.
Hutchinson, KS 67501

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Southeast Region—Independence
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Independence Civic Center
410 N. Penn Ave.
Independence, KS 67301

Thursday, August 22, 2019
Kansas City Metro Region—Overland Park
Matt Ross Community Center
8101 Marty Street
Overland Park, KS 66204

Monday, August 26, 2019
Northeast Region – Topeka
1:30 – 4:30 pm
Capital Plaza
1717 SW Topeka Blvd
Topeka, KS 66612

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Wichita Region – Wichita
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Eugene Metroplex
5015 East 29th Street N
Wichita, KS 67260

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Southwest Region – Dodge City
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Dodge House Convention Center
2409 West Wyatt Earp Blvd.
Dodge City, KS 67801

Thursday, August 29, 2019
Northwest Region – Hays
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Fort Hays State Union
700 College Drive

Hays, KS 67601

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Transportation Secretary named to two prestigious national boards

Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz
was appointed to the Executive Committee of the
Transportation Research Board and will chair
a national Aviation Board. 
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board and will chair a national Aviation Board.

Lorenz recently was asked to join the Executive Committee of the prestigious Transportation Research Board (TRB) to provide leadership in transportation innovation and progress through research and information exchange that is objective, interdisciplinary and multi-modal.

“This invitation is extended upon the recommendation of the Chairman and the Executive Director of the Transportation Research Board, and with my approval,” said Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council.

The TRB is an integral part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The institution, which Congress established in 1863, is a nonprofit, charitable scientific corporation organized and operated to serve public rather than private interests.

“Secretary Lorenz’s selection to these esteemed industry trade roles is recognition of her national expertise and leadership on transportation issues. She brings a wealth of knowledge and transportation experience to these important committees,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “Not only will she represent our state’s transportation and aviation industry well, she’ll also be a key contributor to efforts that help the entire transportation sector move forward.”

Lorenz also was selected to chair the Council on Aviation for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). AASHTO will assess and recommend policies related to aviation legislation and regulation. This organization works jointly with the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) to recommend aviation policy.

“The importance of aviation policy is increasing as we enter an era of unprecedented growth of integrated manned and unmanned operations across our national airspace,” said Secretary Lorenz. “Active leadership in this space will ensure Kansas stakeholders in the aviation industry are fully represented.”