Construction Begins Monday On Highway 54

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

If your daily commute includes passing through the intersection of Highway 54 and 159th Street East, you'll be cruising through a construction zone for the next six months.

That intersection sits right at the Sedgwick and Butler county line. On Monday morning, construction crews will begin an improvement project aimed at making the busy intersection safer for drivers.

The plan is to make turning lanes on the highway longer and add traffic signals for protected left turns in all four directions. The project will cost more than a million dollars and because it sits right at the city limits. Both Wichita and Andover are pitching in to foot the bill.

Tom Hein, a representative from the Kansas Department of Transportation, says eventually that area will be part of the freeway but the intersection has gotten so busy. He says they need to do something now.

"There are long term goals for that area, but they are so many years away and there is so much development in the area and pretty high traffic numbers that we felt like this safety measure was a good move,” KDOT Public Affairs Manager Tom Hein said.

The people who live and work near Highway 54 and 159th Street East say the intersection is dangerous. From his office at Wholesale Fireworks, Jacob Marietta says he can see and hear every car crash that happens at the intersection during the work day.

“You know, once a month is the average. Sometimes it goes it a little longer and then we've had as many as two in the same day before too,” Marietta said.

He says almost everyone who works at Wholesale Fireworks has had to call 911 to report an accident. Andover Police Sgt. Brandon Stewart says keeping an eye on the intersection is part of his job description.

“I'm in charge of looking out for problem areas for citizens of Andover and the people who travel through the city of Andover. This is one of our problem areas,” Stewart said.

Marietta tells us the intersection is dangerous because there's no traffic light. Plus, there isn't much room in the middle of the highway for cars waiting to turn left.

“They sit there everyone starts honking and then they just go. It's scary,” Marietta said.

That's why he's happy about the upcoming construction project, which will add longer turn lanes and a traffic light so drivers can safely turn on green in all four directions.

Even though construction is expected to last until November, Marietta says he'll happily deal with a little extra traffic if it means less accidents outside his window.

“I think if you ask anyone who lives north and south of here - I think we'd gladly take six months of construction if we know the light's here for good,” Marietta said.

Crews will be out working Monday through Friday. There will be two lanes of traffic in each direction on Highway 54, but drivers will not be allowed to turn left at the intersection.

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