FORT RILEY, Kan. - With the noise of cars speeding by and planes flying overhead, the Kansas Department of Transportation unveiled a sign June 2 signifying the start of construction on a two-mile stretch of K-18 Highway - an expansion Fort Riley leaders believe will benefits its Soldiers, Families, civilians and visitors.The $80 million project will make a two-mile stretch of the seven-mile corridor between Ogden and Manhattan into a four-lane freeway. This project is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.Nearly $64.9 million of the total project will include an interchange, four bridges and the four-lane freeway over a two-mile stretch. The remainder of the current funding is being used to prepare the remaining five miles for construction when funds become available."Funding we have now, though, will pay for the right-of-way to preserve the entire corridor and utility relocation for the entire seven miles putting us in a good position to proceed when we have the dollars for construction," said Deb Miller, Kansas Secretary of Transportation.The construction project will make traveling to Fort Riley easier and safer for Soldiers, Families and civilians."It's going to do is make it a little easier in some cases to get on and off the installation," said Col. John Dvoracek, deputy garrison commander for transformation. "Now you'll have two access points through either the 12th Street Gate or the Ogden Gate that if you live (on the east side of Fort Riley) or you want to come in, the ability to get off easily off a high-speed highway, it's just going to make it a lot easier than the on-grade to slow traffic down."It will also support the influx of traffic with an increase of Soldiers being stationed at Fort Riley and Manhattan becoming home to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility within the next few years."Enhancing K-18 to a four-lane freeway will create a safer roadway now and will in the future, more importantly, meet the growth that we know is coming to our area," said Mike Kearns, Riley County commissioner. "Right now approximately 20,000 vehicles travel K-18 between Manhattan and Ogden every day and that number is expected to soar to 37,000 vehicles a day in the next 20 years."The project has been a joint effort between KDOT, Ogden, Manhattan, Riley County and Fort Riley."A unique part of this is the coordination that is being done between KDOT, the Directorate of Public Works, Directorate of Emergency Services and the construction firm that KDOT has working on this in order to make sure all parties understand that the phases of construction and what those potential impacts are getting on and/or off of Fort Riley," Dvoracek said. "So we on the fort understand when they will be doing certain things and how that construction is going to go so that we can in turn inform our community of where they might want to avoid or what times might be better to go through."KDOT and the contractors requested input from Fort Riley officials during the design process on how best to handle traffic flow and for the number of vehicles that travel through the 12th Street and Ogden gates on a daily and annual basis.Dvoracek felt Fort Riley is privileged to be part of the Central Flint Hills Region."Being able to partner with, not only the cities and counties that surround Fort Riley and that we have very close ties with, but also to be able to work with the state on projects like the K-18 project is very, very special," he said. "That is not the same type of arrangement, coordination, reception that military installations and military organizations receive across the United States ... It is with great pleasure that we are able to work on projects like this that improve not only the life for our Soldiers, their Families and the civilians working on post but the entire community." Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson sees the project as a result of prior success of collaboration."This road project is necessary because prior successes that we've had have caused us to build up our infrastructure," he said. "The first, of course, is the Base Realignment and Closure process; again many other states in the country looked at the BRAC process as a threat, as a situation where they would lose troops; we looked at it as an opportunity before the bipartisan group of city, state, local leaders, military officials, business people; people from all stretches across the state, and we were extremely successful. The result is that we didn't just lose troops, we gained them and that has obviously caused significant economic opportunities for this region of the state."As part of the project, two miles of the Union Pacific Railroad track will be relocated and flood control measures implemented.Sema Construction Inc. of Centennial, Colo., is the prime contractor for phase I of the three-phase project. Phases II and III will complete the corridor improvement once funds become available.A total of 149 projects have been awarded ARRA funds including state highways, local roads, transportation enhancements, transit, aviation, rail and Metropolitan Planning Organization projects.The K-18 corridor is the last major Kansas highway project funded by the ARRA. Other state highway projects include US-69 in Overland Park, I-135/47th Street in Wichita, K-23 in Gove County and K-61 in McPherson County. These projects were funded with $268 million of the total $348 million Kansas received in ARRA funds.