Manhattan utilizes stimulus funds to enhance safety of intersection

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From new light bulbs to expanded intersections, the city of Manhattan is scheduled to start seeing effects from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that the city received.

Manhattan was awarded about $7 million dollars for various projects in and around the city. $5.3 million is being used toward the reconstruction of Manhattan Regional Airport’s auxiliary runway, while the remainder is being invested into new light bulbs for the street lights of Manhattan and the reconstruction of the intersection of McCall Road and U.S. Route 24 in east Manhattan.

Lauren Palmer, Manhattan assistant city manager, said the city had to fill out separate applications for each of the grants, each a small part of the many programs falling under the jurisdiction of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestmant act funds. In addition to the $1 million for the intersection project, Palmer said the city has also been awarded $530,700 to change Manhattan’s street lights to fluorescent bulbs.

Palmer said that the intersection was specifically chosen because the stimulus funding had a number of different requirements, including deadlines that had to be met in order for the projects to be improved.

“This one was one of the ones we already had a shovel ready enough that we felt we could do everything we needed to and spend the money in time to get it approved,” she said.

Beth Martino, press secretary for the governor’s office, said the project, like most of the stimulus funds, would indirectly help surrounding counties because Riley has a greater number of jobs than the other counties that surround it.

Robert Ott, Manhattan city engineer, is in charge of modifying the intersection and said the entire cost of the project will be covered by the $1 million. He also said the project includes a number of different modifications and improvements to the intersection, like the addition of a 10-foot wide bike path along the north side of the intersection.

Brian Johnson, principal civil engineer for Manhattan, said a sidewalk will also be added to the south side of the intersection, making crossing the intersection drastically safer for pedestrians.

Another improvement to be included is the squaring off of the intersection, Johnson said. The current arrangement forces drivers to approach the intersection at an angle, greatly increasing the chance for accidents. The lack of sidewalks and a bike path make the intersection dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as the normal automobile traffic, he said.

“Right now it’s dangerous for pretty much everyone,” Johnson said.

Also, the city will be using part of the $1 million from the stimulus to move the intersection of Kretschmer Drive and McCall Road west a little further so that drivers have more time to react when going from intersection to intersection.

“The further you can see your turn, the better you can make it,” Johnson said.

However, Johnson said drivers do not need to worry because the intersections will remain partially open while under construction, rather than being replaced by a detour through the whole area, as is sometimes the case for projects like these.

Johnson said the Manhattan engineers had to do their homework on this project. The initial planning of it began to take shape two years ago. When the funds became available to improve the intersection, the majority of the preparations were already underway.

Johnson described the planning as a “multiagency event” because engineers had to coordinate with the Department of Transportation and the Union Pacific Railroad. They also had to plan with the Department of Defense because an armory is located north of the area, Johnson said.

The project is scheduled to go to bid this fall, and Johnson said he anticipated construction starting sometime this spring.

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Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.