Pressure needed for Kapaun highway

Two weeks ago, we reported on the risks of driving on Remington Rd. from U.S. 56 to Pilsen, the need for a blacktop road on that stretch, and the county’s and Kansas Department of Transportation’s inability to make it happen.

We understand. KDOT has its regulations about what roads get to be state highways. Administrative units like KDOT are supposed to say no to special exemptions — it’s up to policy-making bodies to make exceptions. With that in mind, we reached out to state Rep. John Barker and state Sen. Jay Scott Emler, asking if the state legislature could intervene.

I haven’t received a response from Barker, four days later, but I received an almost immediate response from Emler. He reiterated what KDOT has said about funding for such a road, that it just isn’t within their guidelines from the state.

“As you can see from the response, KDOT does not appear to ‘have available funding’ for the road,” Emler wrote. “Rep. Barker and I can try to get it put into the budget, but the last time someone tried to do that, there was almost a meltdown. It was extolled on both sides of the rotunda as the ‘road to nowhere,’ even though it was for an industrial park (supposedly).”

There we have it. In the current climate, building a simple — and dearly needed — two-lane highway to a site of historical and religious significance and with ever-increasing traffic is a political non-starter. That can change, though, with continued pressure from constituents. The traffic to the museum remembering Father Emil Kapaun — you know the one: war hero, Medal of Honor recipient, servant of God, possible saint — is going to be continued, at least. Rose Mary Neuwirth has told us that more than 500 people have scheduled trips to visit the museum this month alone. How many more will show up unannounced?

It looks like it will take sustained pressure on our legislators and others, KDOT, and the governor to see to it that this project is approved and completed before tragedy strikes. The dedication of a new Father Emil Kapaun Memorial Highway sounds a lot better than a memorial service for pilgrims riding a bus that crashed in a dust cloud.

A stack of letters urging them to prioritize a Kapaun highway could go a long way toward making it happen when the legislature returns to session in January. You can write to our legislators at the Capitol Building, 300 S.W. 10th Ave., Topeka, KS 66612. Barker’s office is Room 176-W, and Emler’s office is Room 541-E.

— ADAM STEWART

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