Danedri Thompson
The Kansas Department of Transportation is reviewing the possibility of re-designating a portions of 199th Street as U.S. 56 Highway, but a 56 Highway study group will make no formal recommendation for or against it.
Along with 15 partners, KDOT is working on a corridor plan for a 22-mile stretch of U.S. 56. The corridor spans from U.S. 59 Highway west of Baldwin City to Interstate 35 in Gardner.According to Kimberly Qualls, KDOT public affairs manager, the study will consider the future of 56 highway as it currently exists.

A vehicle travels down U.S. Highway 56 in Gardner. File photo

“Does access need to be shifted for industrial? Should portions be four lanes?” Qualls said. “It’s what cities and counties want to see (56 Highway) look like down the road. It’s really to help to define what type of roadway they want it to be.”
David Dillner, Edgerton city administrator, is serving on the corridor plan committee. He said the group is looking at guidelines to help direct future redevelopment of 56 Highway to allow safe and efficient travel.
Dillner said so far the group has met once a month to create a foundation of facts for the study and forecast the future for the corridor.
Qualls said the group’s sessions have included a lot of brainstorming sessions which have led to rumors about potential changes to the highway.
“I guess there’s a rumor going around that KDOT wants to have a four-lane freeway along U.S. 56, and that’s incorrect,” Dillner said.
Qualls said the break in access study for a new I-35 interchange near Gardner as well as the intermodal project mean there are a lot of things related to 56 Highway up for discussion.
“There’s a lot of talk about a lot of things,” Qualls said. “We would encourage them to stay tuned and check the Web site for updates.”
Although the study won’t take moving U.S. 56 Highway to 199th Street through parts of Gardner, Qualls said the state has occasionally changed thoroughfares into highways.
For example, Qualls said U.S. Highway 2440 moved off its alignment  on Kansas Highway 7 and onto State Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., when KDOT built a new interchange at K-7 and Interstate 70 near the racetrack.
If 56 Highway were re-aligned it wouldn’t change things much for local residents. The primary change is which governmental body oversees road maintenance. Currently, the county and cities along 199th insure that road is maintained, while the state – through KDOT – oversees maintenance on 56 Highway and other state highways.
Qualls said when the state re-aligns a highway the biggest change residents notice is signage designating the highway.
“It just stays a roadway,” Qualls said. “(Re-alignment) doesn’t mean traffic will be re-routed.”
The 56 Study participants will host public meetings to gather input about the highway corridor in February. The first meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Mildale Farm. A second meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Legion Hall in Baldwin City.