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Kansas celebrates 50 years of Interstates

First in the Nation

Kansas First in Nation to Complete Road in New Program

US-40 section west of Topeka is first in United States to be completed under new 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act

The first section of the nation’s new Interstate Highway System to be built with funds provided under the new 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act was opened to traffic west of Topeka Wednesday, November 14. The project is an eight-mile section of US-40 highway between Valencia and Maple Hill roads. Among those present for the dedication ceremonies were Governor Fred Hall,
U.S. Senator Frank Carlson, Frank E. Harwi, Jr., highway director; state highway commissioners, other highway personnel, Portland Cement association representative, Koss Construction Co. (contracting firm) representative, officers of the Kansas Contractors Association, delegations from the state, Junction City and Topeka Chambers of Commerce and newsmen from the area.

The eight-mile section that was opened marked the second time within two months the State Highway Commission of Kansas scored a “first” under the new program. This section is the first concrete highway to be completed in the nation under the new act; and paving which began on it September 26 was the first concrete work started under the new act. On the day paving began Ivan Wassberg of Manhattan, state highway commissioner for the first division, and his division engineer, L.H. Vincent of Topeka, were on hand. Wassberg observed the event by writing the date “9-26-56” in the fresh concrete.

The new roadway becomes a part of the 40,000-mile national system of Interstate and Defense Highways, the heavy-duty “highway network of the future.” The Highway Act of 1956, passed by Congress on June 29, authorized nearly $25 billion in Federal funds for the construction of these Interstate Highways over the next 13 years. The Federal government will furnish 90 percent funds to the state’s 10 percent. Designed under standards recently adopted for the system, the Kansas pavement is 24 feet wide and of nine-inch-thick concrete. The present roadway will serve both eastbound and westbound traffic for the present; but eventually will become a part of a divided four-lane highway between Topeka and Junction City.

Within the next year it is expected construction on the additional two lanes will be underway. The Federal Highway Act calls for four-lane divided highways on the Interstate, with a median strip measuring a minimum of 36 feet. In Kansas the median strip will measure 60 feet, so an additional two lanes may be built inside later.

Koss Construction Co., of Pauline, was the contracting firm on the entire US-40 construction between Topeka and Junction City. The firm’s successful bid on the latest project was $750,780.82. Grading was done by Grosshans Peterson of Marysville, at a cost of $604,850; and Russell Ralph of Topeka had the contract for four bridges at $155,412 total cost. Howard Veteto of Colony had the $20,383 seeding contract. Previous to the dedication of the new eight-mile section, four and a half miles of US-40 east of the project was opened. It had been built under the old 60-40 Federal-State formula. There is still some work remaining at the traffic interchanges to complete the project but the entire job east to the river will open in December.