Road widening project will ease traffic congestion at Washburn Rural Middle School

Work was in progress Thursday to add a third lane to the two-lane stretch of street in front of Washburn Rural Middle School, 5620 S.W. 61st. (Tim Hrenchir/The Capital-Journal)

A current road widening project is expected to cut down the amount of traffic getting backed up in front of Washburn Rural Middle School, Shawnee County commissioners were told Thursday.

 

Work began last week and should end next week to widen S.W. 61st Street from two lanes to three while adding a center turn lane near the school at 5620 S.W. 61st, public works director Tom Vlach said at the commission’s morning meeting.

The area involved has seen problems involving eastbound traffic becoming backed up behind drivers stopped in front of the school waiting for westbound traffic to clear so they can turn north into its parking lot, Vlach said.

Local motorists and officials from Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437 asked the public works department last year to do something about that problem, he said.

Commissioner Kevin Cook told Vlach he had heard complaints about similar street congestion near Seaman High School, 4850 N.W. Rochester Road, which is located in the commission district Cook represents.

Vlach said he didn’t know exactly what Cook was talking about but encouraged anyone with concerns to call the public works department.

He noted that before the county has any street projects done, it needs to look at matters that include whether it has the right-of-way needed to carry them out.

Commissioners Cook, Bob Archer and Shelly Buhler on Thursday also:

  • Voted 3-0 to appoint Rebecca Cartmill, a county employee since 1986, director of the community corrections department. Cartmill has been interim director since Aug. 1. The department, which oversees offenders taking part in a more intensive form of probation, is financed by the state of Kansas but has county oversight.
  • Voted 3-0 to solicit bids from companies interested in installing artificial turf at Jerry Robertson Field, described Thursday as “the big field,” at Lake Shawnee’s Bettis Family Sports Complex. The current artificial turf was installed in 2008. Artificial turf generally lasts six to eight years, but the parks and recreation department staff was able to get additional time out of the turf at Robertson Field, said Shawn Osborne, a recreation supervisor.
  • Voted 3-0 to create the Timber Ridge Subdivision Street Benefit District Phase IV in the area of S.W. 55th and Maupin Lane. The move puts in place an arrangement through which the county will have street infrastructure put in at an estimated cost of $552,600 and establish a geographic district in which lot owners will pay a specific amount annually as part of their property tax bill to cover street infrastructure costs.
  • Voted 3-0 to issue revenue bonds of up to $5 million to provide financing to enable United Methodist Homes Inc. to finance improvements at Aldersgate Village, 7220 S.W. Asbury Drive, and pay some costs related to issuance of the bonds.
  • Voted 3-0 to approve the purchase for $121,175 from Bettis Asphalt & Construction Inc. of asphalt surfacing for various Shawnee County roadways encompassing an estimated 65,500 square yards.
  • Voted 3-0 to enter into a contract with Cook, Flatt & Strobel Engineers through which the company for $24,000 will conduct a survey of the topography of the Kansas Expocentre campus.
  • Voted 3-0 to approve a change order finalizing the county’s contract with Bettis Asphalt & Construction increasing the amount the county pays by $26,742.56, from $313,723.50 to $340,466, to mill and overlay S.W. Topeka Boulevard from S.W. 57th Street to north of S.W. Airport Drive. The county got bargain prices that enabled it to do more than was planned, Vlach said. The revised total is still below the county’s budget for the project, he said.
  • Heard Cook compliment staff members at Shawnee North Family Aquatic Center, 300 N.E. 43rd, for rescuing a young girl Sunday as she hung suspended from a railing she caught while falling from the high dive.

Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.

Joe Smith 10 days ago
"the county will have street infrastructure put in at an estimated cost of $552,600"

Why are we wasting money to create new subdivisions when we're losing population and there are empty lots and houses for sale all over town?  And in addition to the half million bucks there'll also be the annual cost of maintaining those new streets.  Topeka is shrinking and crumbling and yet the people in charge are still allowing new construction outside the city limits.  Why?
Nate Imparato 10 days ago
Because the county doesn't pay for roads and development inside the city limits.
Kevin Moon 10 days ago
You only focused on half the sentence. 

The other half "... lot owners will pay a specific amount annually as part of their property tax bill to cover street infrastructure costs.

A lot of people don't want to live in various parts of the city due to crumbling infrastructure and crime.
Michele Reese 10 days ago
Thank you county folks for improving 61st St in front of Washburn Rural Middle School.  After dealing with the traffic issue for more than 20 years it will be a relief to travel through that area in the mornings on my way to work in downtown Topeka.  God bless you!
 

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