Construction on U.S. 54 from east 110th Avenue to east 60th Avenue was one step closer Wednesday as bids were let for the project that will transform the two-lane into four lanes.
Depending on the contractor, work on the new section in Pratt County is expected to start sometime around April 1, said Scott Mullen, Kansas Department of Transportation area engineer.
The next portion of the construction will run from one mile east of Cairo where the four-lane ends to just west of Waldeck.
The new four-lane section will be built just to the north of the existing highway that will be maintained as a frontage road since direct access to the new four-lane will be restricted to interchanges including one at Cairo, Mullen said.
An interchange will also be built where the four-lane swings north for the eventual bypass around Pratt. An overpass is also planned at 70th Avenue.
About 90 percent of the new road will be built on the north side of the existing roadway. Eventually, the new road will connect to the existing roadway with a shoo-fly (connecting crossover) on both ends of the new roadway.
The land for the new section is already purchased and the engineering is complete so once the contractor is in place it will not take long for construction to begin.
Electrical crews have been busy putting in new power lines where the construction will take place. When the new lines are brought on-line the old lines will be disconnected and removed.
The project is expected to take two years and be completed in November 2014, Mullen said.
Most of the construction in 2013 will be dirt work, tree removal, construction of box culverts and other preparation work. Depending on the contractor and the weather, concrete could start flowing late in 2013, Mullen said.
Koss Construction is already working on the Kingman County portion of the expansion that will add about eight more miles of four-lane and worked all during the 2012 construction season on the grade for the westbound traffic.
Once the westbound lanes are completed, which should happen by the end of the 2013 construction season, all the traffic on the old section of the highway will be shifted to the new westbound lanes that will be come a two-lane highway until the project is complete.
Construction in 2014 will include removal of old pavement, construction of one new bridge, upgrade the existing roadbed and pouring the concrete, Mullen said.
When these projects are complete in 2014, the next projects will be the bypasses around Pratt and Kingman. In addition, a freeway through Greensburg is planned.
It is unknown which of these three projects well be funded next or when they will be funded.