PAOLA — Two high-traffic intersections along Baptiste Drive in Paola are scheduled for improvements in 2020.
One of the projects will tackle the intersection of Baptiste Drive and Hedge Lane, which is near the entrance to the city off U.S. Highway 169.
The intersection has been notoriously difficult for truck drivers attempting to make turns onto northbound Hedge Lane toward Walmart, especially if vehicles are occupying the Hedge Lane left turn lane.
City officials previously contacted representatives from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) to determine if any state or federal funding was available to assist the city in widening the intersection, and they were notified last year that the city’s application for Highway Safety Improvement Program funding was approved.
The federal funding comes in the form of a matching grant, with KDOT covering 90 percent of the project up to $300,000, which is the estimated project cost. The city would cover 10 percent, about $30,000.
In addition to the turn lane, other planned improvements include updating traffic signalization with LED indications, retroreflective backplates for signal heads, countdown timers, Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) push buttons, and the addition of a battery backup system.
During their December monthly meeting, Paola City Council members approved a bid from BG Consultants to perform engineering services for the project at a cost of $21,900.
The intersection improvements could be coming at an opportune time, as traffic in the area is expected to increase once the planned Paola Crossings development is complete on a 36-acre tract of land near the intersection of Baptiste Drive and Hedge Lane.
It’s possible construction of both projects may be taking place at the same time this year.
The second planned street project will focus on the other end of Baptiste Drive in town, where improvements will be done from Silver Street to Fourth and Iron streets as Baptiste Drive is extended westward.
Late last year, city officials learned that KDOT funding will be available for that project as well. The Baptiste Drive extension is one of 22 projects across the state selected to be a part of KDOT’s new cost share program.
The state grant will cover $742,798 of the construction cost, with Paola being responsible for a local match of $248,798, as well as preliminary engineering and design, right-of-way and utilities.
City Manager Jay Wieland said Paola will be using city funds and its allocation from the county’s quarter-cent sales tax to fund the project.
“We are extremely pleased to have been one of the communities that KDOT selected for funding,” Wieland said. “The extension of Baptiste Drive from Silver (Old KC Road) to Iron Street will provide improved truck access for businesses/industries located on the west side of our community.”
The extension is expected to specifically benefit Taylor Forge Engineered Systems, which often uses trucks to transport large items from its location on the west side to Baptiste Drive on the way out of town.
During their December monthly meeting, Paola City Council members approved a proposal from BG Consultants to perform engineering services for the project for $90,000.
BG Consultants helped the city to submit the KDOT grant application for the project, and city officials said using them for engineering should ensure that the project is ready to bid in early spring since BG already has much of the data needed for the design work.
Paola Public Works Director Kirk Rees said it’s difficult to state an exact timeline for either Baptiste Drive project because they both are reliant on KDOT funding and scheduling, but the current expectation is that they will be done this year.