Counties Passed through: Labette, Neosho, Allen, Anderson, Franklin, Douglas, Jefferson, Atchison
US 59 was in place by 1934, replacing the US 73 and US 73W designations from the Oklahoma Line to Nortonville, and replacing the K-4 designation from Nortonville to the Missouri line at Atchison. US 59 was also concurrent with US 169 between Garnett and Earlton. By 1936, US 59 was hard-surfaced in most places, with only the portion between the Oklahoma line and Oswego, as well as between Welda and Garnett being the only segments that remained gravel. The Welda-Garnett segment was hard-surfaced by 1940, with the segment south of Oswego hard-surfaced by 1941.
By 1950, US 59 had been re-aligned in Neosho County. Instead of turning east at Earlton, 59 turned east at Chanute, being co-designated along K-39 to the junction with K-6, then following K-6 south to Erie. By 1962, 59 had been re-aligned once again, following K-31 from Garnett to Kincaid and following K-6 from Kincaid to Erie. As a result, K-6 was re-designated as US 59.
Meanwhile, in Atchison County, the "stairstep" alignment between Nortonville and Atchison was gradually straightened. The first segment was completed by 1950; the second segment, taking the roadway to Cummings, was completed by 1957; and the final segment between Cummings and Nortonville was completed by 1962.
In Douglas County, 73W/59 originally turned east at what is now 23rd Street, then followed Massachusetts Street through downtown to the Kansas River. By 1956, the present-day Iowa Street was built, and the US 59 designation was moved from 23rd Street and Massachusetts to Iowa Street. At about the same time, US 40 was moved from 7th Street to 6th Street, which also included the US 59 designation. In 1973, US 59 south of Lawrence was widened to four lanes for about 3 miles south of Lawrence, with a new alignment for another 2 miles south that could be expanded to 4 lanes. At the time, it was foreseen that US 59 would eventually be upgraded to a full freeway between Lawrence and Ottawa.
Plans to widen US 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa began in earnest in the Early 2000s, by which time the segment of 59 had a significantly higher accident rate than other 2 lane roadways in the state. A draft Environmental Impact Statement, with two alternatives, one parallel to the current 59, and one a mile east, was released in April 2002. There was significant opposition to the freeway proposal, and particularly to the "mile east" option. In the Final EIS, released in May 2003, the parallel option was selected. Ground was broken on the new 59 project on the Franklin County side in June 2007. The new freeway opened in two sections. The Franklin County segment opened March 30, 2010. The Douglas County segment opened October 18, 2012.Average Annual Daily Traffic
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