The Point of Rocks will be minimally affected by the expansion of the road between Cimarron and Dodge City, as KDOT goes with the compromise option.
The upcoming expansion of U.S. 50 from a two lane road into a four lane expressway will use a paved 16-foot median as it passes the Point of Rocks, the rock formation west of Dodge City that was once used as a navigational aid for travelers and cowboys along the Santa Fe Trail.
The original plan would have levelled the formation, but conversations with heritage and resident groups, including the Santa Fe Trail Association, Great Western Cattle Trail Association and the commissions of Dodge City and Ford County, convinced the Kansas Department of Transportation to explore other options.
One option discussed in recent months was a plan with a grass 60-foot median as will be present along the rest of the expressway to Cimarron. This option was unpalatable for the County Commission and the heritage groups as it would destroy more of the rock.
Local district KDOT engineers preferred an option would have taken the route north, bypassing the issue entirely and allowing the construction of a new interchange with US-400, but the additional $15 million proved too costly.
The 16-foot median emerged as a compromise solution and was backed by the heritage groups when it was presented. The plan will cut into the rock formation and cover the face with false rock retaining wall made to resemble the sandstone as the brittle underlying rock would create a safety hazard.
"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."
"We're very happy. It's been a long fight, but apparently it has paid off," Bunyan added. "We think it's a fair compromise."
Had the 60-foot median option been selected, Jack Fox, the landowner who leases a portion of his property to the city to house the Dodge City cowboy silhouette sign, said he would not renew the agreement with the city.
The plan is expected to fall within the $69 million construction budget for expanding the road from Dodge City to Cimarron.
The nearly two year period of public comment and discussion was a central tenant to this round of transportation funding.
"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," said Kansas Transportation Secretary Mike King in a statement. "I appreciate the input of all interested stakeholders and their willingness to engage in a dialogue on this issue."
Construction on the road is expected to begin in 2018, and is seen as a solution for what is projected to be doubled traffic, specifically freight traffic, by 2038.