McPherson will soon be gaining a third exit along Interstate 135.
A collection of McPherson County leadership along with Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Secretary Mike King came together Tuesday morning at the McPherson Museum for an official groundbreaking for the two major construction projects benefiting the city of McPherson.
Secretary King himself selected the McPherson Museum for this event, where he talked about the types of projects in which KDOT likes to invest their annual budget.
“That's why we invest our, about, billion dollars a year, is so other people can succeed, “ said King. “And that's mainly businesses and communities all across the state.”
The new McPherson interchange is being constructed north of town, about two miles north of Viega, and is just the type of project that Secretary King says fits into their goals for local Kansas communities.
“The Mohawk Road is going to be a great [investment],” explained King. “It's going to allow opportunity to expand. And again, that's what we do: we try to get ahead of the curve, and let that opportunity give you guys the chance so you can come beside us; come beside your local businesses; expand in and also attract foreign investment like you've done a great job of in the past. And you will in the future.”
Building this additional McPherson exit has been a long time in the making, something Kansas Senator Rick Wilborn spoke to as he addressed the audience on how this project is a step forward for the entire local community.
“Community leaders, for 20 years, have pressed gently to get this moving on so that we would have our own inter-mobile type of a system and linkage between the Wichita corridor and Kansas City, [which is] very critical for industry, and critical for community in the way of safety,” Wilborn said.
In his speech to those attending the groundbreaking, Kansas House Representative Les Mason agreed, saying this project is important for all of McPherson County.
Mason also shared how he has talked about the local community to his colleagues in the state capitol.
“When I share about McPherson County to my colleagues and people in Topeka, sometimes I think they think I'm embellishing, or maybe exaggerating a bit, but I'm not,” said Mason. “I'm just telling them the way it is here in McPherson County and the great industrial base that we have and the magical place that we all live in.
“But I continue to tell them that this didn't happen by magic,” Mason explained. “We've had decades of visionaries from our municipally owned utilities, the refinery, the MIDC (McPherson Industrial Development Company)... You can look back in our history and see what has brought us to this point. And I agree with the Secretary (King) that 20 years from now, 30 years from now, we'll look back at this interchange and how important it is to that northeast industrial corridor of ours.”
Over the years, McPherson's Mayor Tom Brown was one of those local leaders who pursued the vision for what this new interchange could mean for the future of McPherson and who didn't give up when the community wasn't ready.
“Sometimes it's just not right timing,” Mayor Brown said. “If we have a vision for what is going to happen, we just have to be persistent a little bit and pick a better time to do it. And the time that we picked it in  and got it approved in  was the right time. The state supported us; the local people supported us who hadn't supported this need in the past.
“We just have to keep on thinking down the road,” Mayor Brown continued fittingly. “There are a lot of things that we need to do today and tomorrow and next year. But we need to be thinking about, 'What do we need 20 years from now? What do we need 30 years from now?'
“This took six years; by the time it's built it'll be seven. You have to be thinking a decade down the road to keep on improving and staying ahead.”
The other big KDOT construction project in McPherson is the rebuilding of Hwy 56 on the east side of town starting at the interstate ramp and stretching along Kansas Avenue until Eby street near McPherson College. This project includes replacing the four-lane pavement, shoulders, and median; rehabilitating the bridge; reviewing crash wall requirements at the railroad bridge piers; adding a hiking/biking trail and sidewalk; and installing conduit and light pole footings for a city lighting system.
Both projects combined are costing about $24 million dollars and are expected to be completed during the summer of 2017.