After years of failing to properly fund Kansas highways in general — and northwest Kansas highways in particular — the Kansas Legislature has had the opportunity for a re-do this session, but seems to be taking a pass on it. In the process, the very dangerous U.S. 383 in Phillips County was specifically investigated by a legislative task force but fixes to it have been punted off into the future — dangerous, but not dangerous enough it seems.
As a result, life-saving improvements to U.S. 383 in Phillips County are still years away.
Those hazards came home to roost twice in three days this week, when on Monday an oversize overweight windmill tower load traveling U.S. Hwy 383 slipped off the [nonexistent] shoulder and wrecked. Luckily, no one was injured. But the entire 25-mile stretch of highway running through the county had to be shut down, a significant number of law enforcement officers from at least three different agencies had to be utilized, massive cranes had to be brought in, and thousands upon thousands of dollars had to be expended — all just to clean up the accident scene.
Can we send the bill for all this to Topeka because they won’t properly invest in our highways?
But it gets worse.
As this editorial was being written and just 18 hours after they cleared Monday’s wreckage off the 383 right-of-way a different semi hauling another windmill tower side-swiped a grain truck on U.S. 383 less than 2 miles from the previous accident site. Nonexistent shoulders + narrow roadway. That one shut the highway down the better part of Thursday morning and on into the afternoon.
All of which raises another question: Why are these wind tower loads even traveling down U.S. 383? Two years ago, oversize overweight windmill loads were banned by KDOT from passing through Phillipsburg because they were destroying the road infrastructure, and pilot car drivers couldn’t mind their manners on Phillipsburg streets. So, having been taken to the woodshed for bad behavior they ended up detouring off U.S. 183 and around Phillipsburg by traveling down U.S. 383. Which is even more ridiculous, given the nature of that road.
How about those who transport these gigantic loads through Phillips County try this instead? Find another route! In 2016, an elderly man was killed on U.S. 183 near Alma, Neb., north of Phillipsburg trying to get around these things that back traffic up a mile behind them. Let’s not have it happen here.
The way things are going, a death will eventually occur on U.S. 383.
Are you listening, Legislature? That one will be on you.