History obscured by a cloud of dust

Marion County and Pilsen are home to a special piece of history, and we shouldn’t hide that piece of history behind a cloud of dust. For drivers who know the Pilsen road like the back of their hands, the gravel surface ranges mostly from an annoyance to a nuisance, increasing driving times, requiring more car washes, and more windshield repairs. For visitors unfamiliar with the road and its curves, though, blinding dust clouds represent a very real danger, and those drivers become a danger to the regulars on the road.

Make no mistake, these visitors are already coming, and they will increase in numbers with Father Emil Kapaun’s receipt of the Medal of Honor on Thursday and the continued investigation into his likely sainthood.

What is to be done about the road, then? Commissioner Dan Holub has nearly exhausted possible avenues for state help with the road — there isn’t any money or much interest for such a project from the state. Holub said on Monday he has one remaining hope, Gov. Sam Brownback. Holub plans to invite Brownback to attend the annual pilgrimage to Pilsen on June 2, when the Medal of Honor will make its way to the church.

But if Brownback doesn’t back the project, relaying asphalt over the nine miles from U.S. 56 to 290th Road is financially unfeasible. That leaves one clear choice: relaying asphalt between 290th and 275th roads. It is only 1½ miles, an enormous savings compared to doing the entire 9 miles. It probably could be built to a bit lighter tolerances than 330th Road between Tampa and K-15 was — tour buses and vans aren’t as heavy as fully loaded semis and farm trucks.

Driving up to Lincolnville, taking 290th west and Remington south just about doubles the driving distance from Marion, but it’s barely a blip for someone driving from Wichita or Kansas City. For local drivers, the county could do a double chip-seal from Pilsen to U.S. 56 — an option that would likely be less expensive than the 1.5 miles of asphalt south of 290th.

All of this probably has to wait until traffic has a chance to compact the road base, and that’s OK. What wouldn’t be OK would be needlessly dragging our feet on the issue.

— ADAM STEWART

 

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