WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Change is coming to northeast Wichita. Drivers on Kansas Highway 96 will see some improvements to make the road wider and safer, but not until at least 2026.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) says more than 50,000 vehicles travel on that stretch of K-96 each day. KDOT expects that to more than double by 2050. Before that happens, transportation officials want to expand K-96 between Interstate 135 and the Kansas Turnpike.

K-96 also has a lot of car crashes. Officials say that it averaged more than 200 a year from 2015 to 2020. Some of the crashes happen when traffic on the exit ramps backs up onto the highway.

The improvement plan would expand K-96 from four to six lanes between I-135 and 21st Street North, replace the pavement along the rest of the four-lane area, and reconfigure the interchanges at Woodlawn, Rock and Webb.

“Those interchanges, we’re looking at total reconfigurations,” Jake Borchers, project manager, said. “So totally new geometry, on and off ramps, new bridges, improvements to city streets beneath to really help traffic flow to and from that freeway much more efficiently.”

Borchers said planners will also look at coordinating the traffic signals on the streets along K-96 to make sure traffic flows as efficiently as possible.

KDOT says that a screening study last year showed that the expansion needs to happen within the next 10 years. KDOT will lead the project but will coordinate with the Federal Highway Administration and the City of Wichita.

Timeline

  • 2022-2023 — The project is in the preliminary design phase. Officials will use this time to explore design ideas, get community input, study crash and traffic data, and review the environmental, economic, and social impacts.
  • 2024-2025 — KDOT will finalize the design and finish preconstruction work.
  • 2026 — This is the earliest construction could start.

KDOT says the timeline is subject to change.

“That’s going to be dependent on a few things — allocated funding from KDOT and really coordinating those adjacent projects, like the Wichita North Junction project … and then East Kellogg, the next phase of it as it comes along as well,” Borchers said.

Click here for the website dedicated to the K-96 improvement project. On the site, you’ll be encouraged to sign up for updates and to share your opinion.

“Really getting out into the community, engaging with them to understand your concerns,” Borchers said. “You all drive this every day, so you’ve probably seen some things that us as a design team aren’t, so really getting that input from you is a benefit to us as the design team.”

He said KDOT hopes to hold a community open house early in 2023 to show people some of the potential design solutions and to get feedback.