County could see some paving by year's end

Dirt is moving on the latest section of upgrade to U.S. 54 in Pratt County that will change the highway from two-lane to four-lane.

Some of the box culverts are finished and dirt work is underway on the south side of the highway between East 60th Avenue and East 70th Avenue, said Scott Mullen, Kansas Department of Transportation area engineer.

The amount of dirt to be moved is substantial and it will take at least a couple of months of just dirt moving before any other work will begin.

"We won't be progressing down the road very fast because of the dirt work," Mullen said.

Two contractors are currently working on the project. One is building concrete box culverts and moving from west to east. As soon as a culvert project is finished, dirt work can begin on that portion of the project, Mullen said.

It will take several months to complete all the culverts in the newest portion of the extension.

The latest expansion project will extend the existing four-lane from East 110th Avenue, a mile east of Cairo, to East 60th Avenue. That will make a total of nine miles of 54 in Pratt County into four-lane highway.

The plan for the 2013 construction season is to get all the culvert work complete and have nearly all the dirt work done. Depending on the weather, if enough work is done some paving might take place before the end of construction in 2013.

The bulk of the paving will take place in 2014 with the scheduled completion of the new addition sometime in the fall.

The four-lane plan will move all four lanes north of the existing highway between 100th Avenue and 110th Avenue. The four-lane will continue entirely on the north side of the existing highway from 100th Avenue to 70th Avenue where both lanes will shift to the south side of the highway at the truck washout and Waldeck intersection.

Construction will continue for another mile west to 60th Avenue as part of this portion of upgrade. The current 54 will be used as frontage road in the latest portion of construction with some additional frontage road.

Since the bulk of the work on all four lanes will be new construction off the existing highway, traffic will continue to flow on the existing two-lane highway for almost the entire construction period except when where the transitions occur across the highway.

Also under construction at the same time are several miles in Kingman County.

Construction is well under way for the westbound lanes with several miles of pavement already poured and set.

Dirt work for two miles in the Byron Walker Wildlife Area is moving quickly with some work complete and ready for paving. The goal for the 2013 construction season is to complete the entire westbound lanes and shift all traffic to those lanes in September, Mullen said.

Work will start on the eastbound lanes with asphalt removal and bridge replacement. Since the existing roadway will be used for the new eastbound lanes, much of the road bed is already in place and not a lot of dirt will be needed before paving can start in 2014. Completion of the Kingman County portion of the project will also be in fall 2014.

Cost of the Pratt County portion of the project is $26.2 million while the Kingman County portion, including a two-mile section that was completed in 2012, is $34.2 million for eight miles of road.

Funding for these projects comes from the T-Works will and some federal aid.