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Making rural blacktops safer
Commission OKs next High Risk Rural Roads Program applications
new deh county commission high risk roads pic web
Pictured is a no-passing zone pennant sign on North McKinley which was among signs installed during the most recent High Risk Rural Roads project in Barton County. The County Commission Monday approved applying for another round of HRRR funding. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 Several rural Barton County blacktops may become safer in the future after the Barton County Commission Monday morning approved applying for state funds to study signage on several of the roads.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has requested applications for the federal Fiscal Year 2020 High Risk Rural Roads program, County Engineer Barry McManaman said. There is a total pool of $3.5 million available statewide. This is a competitive process and he proposed the county apply for two projects. 

“We’ve had good luck in the past,” he said of HRRR funding. Since 2013, the county has completed two HRRR projects and has a third in the design phase.

“These would be numbers four and five,” he said. They include:

• An engineering study of signing and no passing zones on various county roads that are classified as major collectors, minor collectors and local roads, and on which no previous signing project has been done, he said. 

The cost for this would be $393,000. But, the state funds would cover 100 percent of the work, up to and including construction.

• An engineering analysis of no passing zones and the required no passing pennant signs. This second project previously had a sign replacement project in federal Fiscal Year 2013 but that project did not include a no passing zone analysis. 

At a cost of $140,000, this would also be funded at 100 percent.

“These both are very good projects,” McManaman said. “I think it’s a good deal.”

The HRRR program dates back about four years and involves replacing traffic warning signs with new ones that meet new, more stringent national traffic standards for reflectivity. There are about 400 miles of blacktop roads in Barton County, but this only covers those that see the heaviest traffic.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, an HRRR is defined by law as “any roadway functionally classified as a rural major or minor collector or a rural local road with significant safety risks, as defined by a State in accordance with an updated State strategic highway safety plan.”

Utilizing federal funds, the state is paying for the design, the signs and for county Road and Bridge Department crews to install them.