COLUMBUS, Kan. —
Residents and officials on Thursday examined plans for projects on Kansas Highway 7 between Columbus and Cherokee.
The Kansas Department of Transportation presented the meetings.
The 11-mile widening project has been included in KDOT’s TWORKS, or transportation works for Kansas, program. The estimated cost of the work is nearly $42 million.
Mary K. Pomatto, 87, of Roseland, said she has been interested in seeing improvements to the highway for many decades. She said she has attended every meeting related to the highway. She referred to it as a “horse-and-buggy” highway.
“We finally see good things happening,” she said.
She said there have been many accidents along the highway, including one in which her niece was injured. She said she was especially concerned about school buses traveling along the narrow highway.
“We’re very thankful there were people who listened to us” in Topeka, she said.
James Robinson, who lives along the highway, said he was concerned about how the project would affect his house and property, until a KDOT official reassured him.
“I’m going to breathe a little easier tonight,” Robinson said.
He said a KDOT official told him he would be compensated for a row of cedar trees that would have to be removed.
Robinson’s neighbor, Louis Sachetta Jr., also was concerned. He had lived in the same location since 1947. He said he preferred to continue to live there. He was there with his son, Joplin (Mo.) High School principal Kerry Sachetta. The younger Sachetta said a KDOT official told them his father’s home also wouldn’t be affected.
State Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, said improving Highway 7 has been a priority for him his entire legislative career, since 1999. He’s not seeking re-election. He said he was glad to see a plan.
“This was one of my goals when I first went in,” Gatewood said.
County Commissioner Pat Collins said the project would improve the safety of the highway for all motorists, including for emergency vehicles. He said it has been a joint effort of local and state governments.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s just great. It’s been a long time coming.”
Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2016 and take at least two years to finish. A section north of Kansas Highway 102 will start first, with the southern half later in the project.