Despite Kapaun traffic, KDOT not interested in taking over as highway
Some in Marion County are requesting the state make Remington Road from U.S. 56 and Pilsen an extension of K-256.
According to Rose Mary Neuwirth, curator of the Kapaun museum at Pilsen, traffic to Pilsen has increased exponentially since native son Father Emil Kapaun posthumously received the Medal of Honor in April. He may be declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church in the future.
“We are swamped,” Neuwirth said.
Many people are coming from out-of-state and stopping in Pilsen on their travels from one state to another. Others come on tour buses or in car caravans.
In August alone, there were 12 tours and a visit from a Korean bishop.
On Friday, the Topeka Auto Tour group visited Pilsen. Last Sunday, 19 people visited. More were expected on Thursday. At least nine tours are scheduled so far for Sept. 29 through October, involving more than 150 people, including busloads of students from Kapaun-Mount Carmel High School in Wichita.
Neuwirth said she tries to instruct people coming from the south to access Pilsen from 290th Rd., but they do not understand why they should go so far out of their way. They would rather follow their GPS units.
“If Kapaun achieves sainthood, I don’t know how we will do it,” Neuwirth said.
Kathy Svitak of Pilsen wants to know, “Is the county proud of this connection to the rest of the country?”
She is upset about how the Remington Rd. issue is being handled.
“All I can say is, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’” she said. “I am not happy. I’m disappointed and disgusted. We feel like we’ve been abandoned.”
She said even the stretch of Remington Rd. north from Pilsen to 290th Rd. that was asphalted is bumpy and uneven.
“Try driving it at the speed limit, and go both ways,” she challenged.
She appreciates that the road south from Pilsen has been widened and is in better shape than the asphalt stretch, but the dusty conditions make it dangerous.
She noted that residents of north-central Marion County have only two choices of connecting roads to U.S. 56, Kanza and Remington Rds. With the condition of Remington Rd, which is the main connection to Marion, residents are reluctant to drive it.
“At nighttime, it’s unthinkable,” Svitak said. “A lot of people are going miles out of their way.”
Kansas Department of Transportation area superintendent Joe Palic was unsure of the process for new stretches of highway to be added to the highway system. He inquired with Dennis R. Slimmer, chief of transportation.
“The statute states that changes can be made when the public safety, convenience, economy, classification, or reclassification requires such change,” Slimmer wrote back. “Based on a preliminary review of the traffic counts that we have available for the road in question, it doesn’t appear to meet the requirements for consideration as an addition to the state highway system. Our latest counts do not show an increase in traffic.
“However, if there is additional information or mitigating circumstances that should be considered, we would be happy to review that information to further evaluate its eligibility as a state highway.”
“In the long run, it’s really hurting Marion and Hillsboro because visitors won’t go there to eat or shop,” Neuwirth said.
County Commissioner Dan Holub is most concerned about driver safety.
“It’s all about the dust,” he said. “All kinds of situations develop when clouds of dust hang over the road. People are afraid to turn into their driveways, and they become sitting ducks.”
He is working with state legislators to try to secure funding for an asphalt overlay of the road.