By the end of her tour, Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz will have completed eight stops across the state of Kansas to get input from local residents and local government officials on improvements that are going to be made and what more needs to be done for transportation.

For District 6, the counties consisting of Ford, Gray, Clark, Hodgeman, Meade, Seward, Stevens, Morton, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Finney, Kearny, Hamilton, Greeley, Wichita, Scott, Lane and Ness were the focus of the secretary's Aug. 28 visit at the Dodge House in Dodge City.

"We are working to put together the next 10-year program for transportation in Kansas," Lorenz said. "Community engagement and collaboration is important so we intend to do these meetings every couple of years."

The meetings were to gain common themes and insights for every area of the state, and Lorenz said two common themes for District 6 were safety and delivering freight.

An open session was held prior to Lorenz's discussion where several area residents talked of the need for safety on highways.

Haley Hahn, from Hanston, spoke during the open session, saying in 2014 there was a bus wreck that her kids were on.

"Luckily, everyone was OK," Hahn said. "There was nowhere for them to go when a wide-load semi came by.

"This is serious. This is important and I'm begging you, please ride on our highways. I'm an EMT also and pick up bodies all the time. It is frustrating because it could have been prevented most of the time."

Another area safety need, officials said, was near 118 Road and US-54 highway in Ford County. The curved highway at that location has been the site for numerous fatality accidents for the past several years.

The primary goal of the meetings, according to Lorenz, is to understand what Kansans want and need out of the next 10 years.

"Certainly highways are an important part of that," Lorenz said. "And with highways it is to preserve the system that we have and where do we need to build more highways and does that mean more four-lanes, passing lanes. We need to have a big vision of the things we can afford and do right away."

Projects on delay are major parts of KDOT plans moving forward. Among those was the four-lane expansion of US-50 highway between Dodge City and Cimarron. According to KDOT, that project is estimated to possibly begin in 2022.

Estimated cost for the project for Gray County will be $28,571,000 and for Ford County will be $42,697,000.

New expansion projects were also put on the radar for southwest Kansas.

Some possible expansion projects are a four-lane between the Ford and Clark County line to the Clark and Meade County line; passing lanes on US-283 highway east to Spearville; a four-lane between the Ford and Clark County line to the Kiowa and Ford County line; a four-lane from Spearville to the Ford and Edwards County line and passing lanes from Dodge City along US-283.

Shoulder construction is estimated from US-50 highway in Garden City to the Hodgeman County line; from Finney County line to Pawnee County line, and reconstruction between Jetmore to Hanston.

"KDOT’s consult meeting in Dodge City allowed for new projects to be heard and we had the opportunity to continue to push for those projects that are highly needed in Ford County and our surroundings," said Dodge City Mayor Brian Delzeit. "While we continue to push for the unfinished projects under the T-Works Program, we are planning for the next roads and infrastructure plan, which includes greater needs to able to sustain growth and further economic development in KDOT District 6."

Lorenz added that with agriculture, "This is important to the economy not just for southwest Kansas but the entire state so we want to figure out how we can meet as many needs as possible all across the state and make sure we are all healthy whether it's infrastructure health, economic health, getting kids to school safely, all important pieces to look at going forward."

Another KDOT state tour is set to take place in November.

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