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K-18 work ties up western access

By Jeremy Bohn

A stretch of K-18 highway leading out of Manhattan will be under construction for at least the next two years. The work is part of a three-phase construction process, turning K-18 into a full four-lane freeway, from Manhattan to Ogden.

The first phase was completed in 2011. It included a new exit, K-114, to Ogden, 56th Avenue interchange and drainage improvements around the highway.

The current work is phase two of the project. It means that Scenic Drive cannot be accessed from K-18 due to the redesign of the Scenic and K-18 intersection, which will now include an interchange. Parts of Manhattan are being affected as well. The Miller Parkway and Davis Drive interchange is being constructed, limiting access to both roads, from K-18. Construction on Skyway Drive and Eureka Drive will also impact driving in 2012.

This project is expected to wrap up by the end of 2013. K-18 will remain a one-lane highway until that time, and will be impacting commuters for a eight-mile stretch.

Kim Qualls, public affairs representative for the Kansas Department of Transportation, says commuters on K-18 will face many changes to the rout in the upcoming months, due to the construction process.

“Drivers have traffic changes to deal with, new crossovers put in, interchanges opening,” said Qualls. “There is a lot of updating to keep informed on, what impacts are taking place, so that drivers know there’s roadways that have been closed at times.”

The Riley County Police Department has been watching this stretch of roadway closely, due to the construction. Officer Emmitt Smith says there have been a number of crashes due to inattentive driving.

“I’ve noticed a lot of accidents have occurred because of following too closely,” Smith said. “ A lot of the accidents that I’ve seen out there are user-operated error.”

The RCPD has put an extra emphasis into looking for cars that are not keeping safe distances.

“(We’re looking for) following too closely, cell phone (usage), and inattentive driving, things like that. We want to make sure the vehicles are following at a safe distance, at a safe distance to where (vehicles) can stop before they collide with another vehicle.”

Qualls says the most important thing for motorists to do is to just stay informed about the information coming out of KDOT and potential changes in what construction may do to the route.

“I would highly suggest that (motorists) check on KDOT’s website for traffic updates, or we can also add them to our list to stay informed on traffic updates.” Qualls said.

Qualls noted that traffic switches can occur. “Just because you go one day (doesn’t mean the route won’t change the next),” Qualls said. “There are traffic changes that occur throughout construction projects.”

Qualls credits the city of Manhattan and media outlets for doing a good job in helping to keep drivers safe and informed.

“The city and the Mercury are great partners in helping to keep drivers informed and updated.” Qualls said.

Whether it’s the construction workers, motorist or anyone else accessing the highway, Qualls says that they just want everyone to be safe and obey the laws.

Officer Smith says drivers need to be more cautious and always be alert.

“Just drive like you normally would as far as obeying the speed limit,” he said. “Always allow yourself enough room between you and the driver in front of you, so that in case the drive in front of you has to stop, you can stop safely without colliding with that other vehicle.”

K-18 will be under construction for much of the first semester of school. However, motorists will get a little bit of a break during what KDOT calls “Winter Shutdown.” That is when crews will do any work off or surrounding the roadway, returning the roadway back to two lanes, each direction, from Thanksgiving weekend to March or April, depending on how the winter goes.

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