Monday, August 4, 2014



     In the research of the history of our main Kansas highways none can be more frustrating than the Interstate that was never built.  I call it the 'Politician's interstate'.
      Back in the early 1990's there was a 'major' movement to design and build the last major interstate corridor through the country.  Ninety percent of the original intent for the interstate system was built.  Whether it was loss of interest, cost, or incompetence has never been established, there are many view points.  The central corridor between I-40 and I-70 was never built.
      When the DOT decided to explore the project it started out as I-66.  The idea being going straight across the country more or less paralleling the old Highway 66 route.  Known as the Transcontinental Interstate 66 Proposal its idea was created and promoted in Wichita.  Business people saw it as a means of bringing more business and traffic into the area.
      Using the fabled number '66' the highway was to start at Fresno California and end in Delaware.  The only part of I-66 that actually exists runs from Washington DC to Somerset Kentucky.
      The chairman of the national committee to build I-66 was Mayor Bob Knight from Wichita.  One full time city employee was put on the task Mr. Glen Dockery.  His statement on the highway was "I'm going to get this damn road built".
      The total project would have been 1700 miles in length.  The western part of the project would have been mostly new road carved through the west and the studies for environmental standards extreme cost rendered that portion untenable.
      East of Wichita the road would be following established corridors with upgrades to interstate status.  In the end the feasibility study came back cancelling the perceived need for the road.
      So the alternative to I-66 became I-400.  Early on the 400 corridor was routed on existing highways.  Many of the construction projects done on the route were actually part of upgrades that would have happened without the re designation of the number.
      For a cost around 52K signs were made and the I-400 corridor was created.  Many of the websites and highway critics just characterize I-400 as a joke.  West of Wichita the process of building the upgrades have been done on small increments and each section is dependent on the funding from the Legislature which fluctuates wildly with the politics of the day.
      The design and planning for I-400 around Kingman past Pratt has had people scratching their heads for years.  The worst route at the highest cost has been the only option actually considered.  The building through the Kingman Wildlife Area and the multiple crossings of the Ninnescah River has never struck anyone as real logical.  Two miles either direction would have avoided all of it, plus some huge costs.
      As changing needs arise there are bits and pieces that will be built.  Highways are due for re-routing most notable US-54 around Wichita on the Northwest bypass covering the K-96, I-235, US 154 route from Goddard to Eldorado.
      There are many more things and stories about highways in Kansas that I may take up in the future.  At some time I will tell the story of the International Trade Corridor.

No comments:

Post a Comment