State and local leaders took part in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning at Cherry Grove Baptist Church in preparation for the Highway 69 widening project that is set to begin this week.
“It’s a big day for us to be here and to actually be turning dirt,” said Ken Brock, the volunteer leader of the Kansas Highway 69 Association who played a key role in making the project a reality.
Governor Sam Brownback attended the event and said he is glad the project is underway after it “hit a rut” in recent years because of budget issues.
“There’s a lot of people who have fought for this for a long period of time to make this a reality,” Brownback said.
Brownback explained the state is currently focusing on the maintenance of roads instead of new constructions, but added the Highway 69 project is key to commerce and safety and is a priority of the state.
“It is one of the major arteries of the state that needs to be finished,” Brownback said of the six-mile project that will make it four lanes to the county line, adding he plans to have that project continuing to Pittsburg before he finishes his time in office. “Today is the beginning of a nice victory lap.”
Kansas Secretary of Transportation Richard Carlson, appointed to his position just in the last year, said he looks forward to the completion of the project and how it will bring a boost to the entire state.
“It’s an important corridor for the area for the expansion of 69,” Carlson pointed out. “It’s another important step in moving our four-lane highway system further south…We at KDOT are proud to be a part of this important project and certainly look forward to the completion of it all the way south.”
Carlson also encouraged drivers to be cautious when driving on the highway during periods of construction in order to avoid any dangerous situations for the drivers or the construction workers.
“There’s a lot of people that go into making a project like this happen,” Brock said, saying the governor and Senator Jake LaTurner invested great effort into the project. “It doesn’t just happen and it doesn’t happen quickly.”
LaTurner pointed out he was not the individual who began the process, as a number of bipartisan senators and representatives invested time into it over the past 30 years. The first portion of the project is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.