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Compromise reached in SW Kansas highway project

The original plan for the $69 million project would have destroyed the rock formation by using a 60-foot median near the landmark, which was a landmark for wagon trains and cattle drives in the 1800s along the Santa Fe and Great Western trails.

The Associated Press

3/25/2014

DODGE CITY, Kan. — State transportation officials have approved a compromise plan for a highway expansion in southwest Kansas that endangered a historic landmark.

Under the new proposal, U.S. 50 will be expanded from two lanes to a four-lane expressway using a 16-foot median as it passes the Point of Rocks formation west of Dodge City. The rest of the highway expansion between Dodge City and Cimarron will include a 60-foot grass median, The Dodge City Daily Globe reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1p0r9hO ).

The original plan for the $69 million project would have destroyed the rock formation by using a 60-foot median near the landmark, which was a landmark for wagon trains and cattle drives in the 1800s along the Santa Fe and Great Western trails.

At the urging of heritage groups and some area residents, the Kansas Department of Transportation agreed to consider other options. A proposal that would have moved the route of the highway north, bypassing the monument, was rejected because it would have added $15 million to the project.

Using the 16-foot median will require cutting some of the rock formation and a false rock retaining wall will be installed to resemble the monument's sandstone.

"We're very pleased with the outcome and that KDOT was willing to compromise," said Bill Bunyan, the Dodge City area chapter president of the Santa Fe Trail Association. "We think it's for the best to save the Point and the Dodge City sign."

The new plan is not expected to increase the $69 million budget for the project.

"I'm pleased that KDOT and our local partners were able to come up with a solution that meets the transportation needs of the region and is responsive to the wishes of many people in Southwest Kansas," Kansas Transportation Secretary Mike King said in a statement. "I appreciate the input of all interested stakeholders and their willingness to engage in a dialogue on this issue."

Construction is expected to begin in 2018.