18 Nov HELLO, TOPEKA!
“LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT VISION AND
RESPONSIBILITY, NOT POWER.”
I spent a week in Pratt Regional Medical Center. I happened to get the best room in the hospital because it had a window that faced US 54/400 highway. So I was able to set and do my hobby of counting Fed Ex trucks. When you feel like doing nothing else it is something to pay attention to. I was so sick that I did not want to read and TV is terrible.
So I was able to observe what I have been talking to my State Rep and Senator about for years. I have also written about it before. For fifty years I have observed the progress, or lack there of, of the US 54 highway project. Twenty years ago it was projected that the traffic on 54 would quadruple. Well they were right.
The project that had been announced on the news and then forgotten, about US 54 being built into an interstate quality four lane highway, has been forgotten. The first phases when I was in grade school finally made it west of Wichita to just north of Kingman. In fact the whole section has been rebuilt more than once during the last 50 year period.
Then the master plan was developed after the two lane had been rebuilt through the swamp west of Kingman. By this time there had been a federal project that had been passed by the Congress and announced by the US Rep. Todd Tihart that the US 54 project had been approved to go from state line to state line as a four lane interstate quality highway.
Back during this period I was involved in the township association and had my interest in rural Kansas growing. It was great since at that time the growth of the only corridor from the Southwest to the Northeast was growing by leaps and bounds.
Of course there was still the mentality that had stopped the Southeast Highway plan from local towns that were scared to death that having the highway miss going through towns that they would all die. Hello! highways are not built through towns any more, you get exits. By holding out for 1950’s style highways the South East basically lost out. Losing most of the manufacturing businesses in the meantime.
So the US 54 plan was designed and Kingman fought it tooth and nail. In the meantime a five mile stretch was built around Cunningham. It took 12 years. Then the new swamp project took years to build through the wildlife area west of Kingman. Then a five mile stretch was built to the Ninnescah River east of Pratt.
No bypass of Pratt or Kingman yet and no funding. They even gave up in the Pratt County Courthouse and took down the blueprint that was on the wall at least 15 years.
Looking out of the hospital window and seeing the huge amount of trucks and other traffic just brought home a conversation that I had last year with my State Rep.
We have a new Governor who has pledged not to take funding from the KDOT funds to make the rest of the State departments function. Just like the last 6 governors who promised the same thing and then lied.
There was even a State Senator that was going to propose raising the gas tax to give more money to KDOT. (that was stopped since it would be just another slush fund for the General Fund).
I understand that there are 105 counties that all want KDOT projects to be done in their counties. Kind of like using a shotgun to shoot elephants.
There has to be a concerted effort to finish the major highways on the major routes throughout the whole state. As the East Kellogg project on US 54 in East Wichita has still been underway for 10 years or more, there is still 3 to 5 years left on it.
US 96, US 50, US 54, and the Northwest and Southwest bypass around Wichita all need to be shovel ready projects and get started now!
Hello TOPEKA! I know you don’t think there is anything west of US 81. Get off of your tookus and start building what will bring Kansas back into the major transportation and manufacturing systems again!