Resolving confusion on K-18

Getting into, out of airport is among city focal points

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners aired concerns about safety issues and traffic backups, particularly near the Manhattan Regional Airport, during a Tuesday work session.

Specifically, commissioners told Kansas Department of Transportation representatives and city staff members that communication and traffic routes need to be clear to motorists. There was also uncertainty and confusion regarding several areas, mainly the Miller Parkway connection and the airport entrance.

“It’s got to be clear as possible for each intersection as to which direction they’re going to go and how they can get around,” Commissioner Rich Jankovich said.

Jerry Haug, KDOT construction engineer, and Rob Ott, city engineer, gave commissioners an overview of the project and a preliminary timeline. The current phase, and next phase, of the project will complete the upgrade of K-18 from Wildcat Creek Road to the Miller Parkway and Davis Drive intersection. The project will include elevated interchanges just outside of the airport and at Scenic Driver and Miller Parkway/Davis Drive.

Currently, KDOT has started excavation on the east side of Davis Drive and will haul fill material to the west side for the future interchange. Traffic is being directed via a flagger and Davis Drive is still open. West of the airport entrance, westbound and eastbound traffic will be on the new K-18 alignment. Drivers will have to use a crossover to transition from the old K-18 roadway to the new alignment.

The Davis Drive connection to K-18 is also closed, and it is projected to be closed until 2013. The city is advising residents south of K-18 to use Allison Avenue and Stagg Hill Road to K-113/Seth Child Road interchange or Rosencutter Road to K-18 for eastbound and westbound access.

On March 19, K-18 traffic will be head to head (a lane of eastbound traffic and a lane of westbound traffic) starting just west of K-113 west to Ogden. Ott also noted the target date for completion of improvements and opening of Shuss Road is May 1. It is expected to relieve congestion for Arbor Heights and Johnson Valley residents to access Southwind Place and the K-113/Seth Child interchange.

However, there seemed to be some confusion over the Miller Parkway connection to K-18. The city initially indicated the connection would be closed March 19, resulting in motorists using Amherst Road to K-113/Seth Child Road then going south to K-18 for eastbound and westbound access.

Haug indicated that would not be the case. He said KDOT would most likely leave right-in and right-out access at the Miller Parkway connection.

Commissioner Loren Pepperd seemed somewhat frustrated. Pepperd said he drove through the area and found the new routes not sufficiently clear to motorists. He added the news about Miller Parkway only adds to the confusion.

“I’m confused,” Pepperd. “We’ve got to sit down and come up with a solution to each problem.”

There was also some uncertainty regarding the traffic flow at the airport entrance and Scenic Drive intersection. Haug said a variety of options, such as leaving them as is, making each location right-in and right-out and adding a stop light, have been discussed.

“At this point in time, I don’t believe anything has been decided for sure about what’s going to happen at either one of those locations,” Haug said.

Pepperd was also concerned about motorists’ ability to access the airport entrance coming from Wamego and Fort Riley. Haug said they will be able to get on the skyway that will hook around toward the airport. He said there are currently plans for a left turn lane into the airport.

Commissioners were unconvinced that would be a suitable option.

“If we’re just throwing in a left turn lane, yippee,” Jankovich said. “You can’t cross the traffic because the traffic does not stop.”

Jankovich said during peak traffic times, especially around the morning and afternoon flight times, it would be virtually impossible to turn in to the airport with the high traffic volume. Mayor Jim Sherow was also concerned about peak traffic times and safety issues they presented.

Haug said a stop light at the entrance is still on the table but noted the main obstacle to installing one is the high cost.

Commissioner Wynn Butler felt it would be possible to put some detour signs to direct motorists coming from the west around the back of the airport. Butler said if they went down Eureka Drive and over to Scenic Drive they could make a right turn on to K-18 and then a right turn into the airport. He indicated he would prefer that left turns out of the airport be eliminated as well.

“It makes people go a little bit farther, you could publicize that, but I think it would be safer and cause less congestion,” Butler said.

Commissioners and city officials did not land on any concrete answers to the traffic issues, but it was understood the project would require significant examination and improved communication in the coming months.

“I want the most efficient way to get there with the greatest amount of safety,” Sherow said.

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