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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Highway construction moving in phases

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  • It looks like a bridge to nowhere.
    The future site of an overpass on the U.S. 54 expansion project east of Pratt is located on 70th Avenue. The avenue is closed and a mound of dirt sits waiting for another mound on the north side of the highway and a bridge between.
    But that is going to take a while. A lot of dirt had to be moved to get the south side of the over pass up to grade, said Scott Mullen, Kansas Department of Transportation area engineer.
    But no dirt has been moved on the north side of the highway, a necessary element that has to be completed before the overpass bridge itself can be built.
    Road construction crews have moved uncounted tons of dirt from 60th Avenue down to the new grade level and moved that dirt east to raise the grade level east of 70th Avenue.
    Once those grade levels have been met, a portion of the new highway will be paved from west of 60th Avenue to east of 70th Avenue. Then the traffic will be switched to the new pavement.
    The old highway will then be removed and the rest of overpass will be built. The plan is to have the highway ready for the switchover sometime this fall or early next spring, Mullen said.
    One element of the construction that is complete is an access from the current highway to the new access road that connects with 60th Avenue south of the dirt removal area. The new access point is about halfway between 60th Avenue and 70th Avenue.
    Much of the dirt that was removed from 60th Avenue was hauled east, crossing the highway and onto the north side of the project to bring the road surface up to the new grade level.
    Another crew has been building box culverts east to the point where the new construction meets the existing four lane a mile east of Cairo. Some are complete while just the dirt has been removed on the culverts furthest to the east.
    Some of the new four-lane area still has crop cover but with growing season coming to a close, it won't be long until all the crops are gone. The feed crop has already been harvested and the bales have been moved.
    While the area around 60th Avenue has provided a substantial amount of dirt for the construction project, more dirt will be needed and have to come from off site, Mullen said.
    Drivers need to pay attention when traveling through the construction area. Two serious accidents have occurred including one that resulted in two fatalities and injuries to three others.
    Signs warn of the upcoming area and people with slow/stop signs also alert drivers when machinery has to cross the road.

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