It’s good that the Kansas Turnpike Authority plans to build new culverts along a stretch of the turnpike prone to flooding. But shouldn’t those culverts be designed to meet more than just the minimum standard? After all, seven people have died during heavy rains since 2003.
Kansas Turnpike CEO Steve Hewitt said during a meeting last week at The Eagle that designing the culverts to a 50-year-flood standard – the recommended minimum design for interstates – was appropriate and prudent. “We don’t want to overdesign,” he said.
He said that KTA has other improvements it needs to make along its 236-mile roadway, so it needs to make “good, sound, sustainable decisions” and take “a holistic view of the entire system.”
In addition to the new culverts, which Hewitt said will be a drastic improvement, KTA plans to improve its warning system, adding additional electronic signs. KTA also is considering adding guardrails but doesn’t want to create a new hazard.
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“We’ve taken this seriously,” Hewitt said, adding that “we are committed to do what we need to do.”
But Missouri and Colorado use a higher, 100-year-flood standard for culverts on their interstates. If that is too expensive for KTA as a systemwide standard, couldn’t it at least use the higher standard for the most dangerous areas of the turnpike, where people have suffered horrible deaths?
“We are not trying to be cheap,” Hewitt said. But it looks that way.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee