State Route 18, also known as K-18 is a state route in the U.S. state of Kansas. The road forms an east-west route in the west and center of the state, from Bogue to Wamego. The road passes through the regional towns of Junction City and Manhattan, and is part double-numbered with Interstate 70, forming an individual freeway between I-70 and Manhattan. The total length is 332 kilometers.
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K-18 splits off US 24 at Bogue, not far from Hill City. The road winds south through the grid, gradually closing in on Interstate 70. The road leads through monotonous agricultural area. The towns on the route in western Kansas are generally very small. K-18 is double numbered with US 281. Near Bennington one crosses the US 81, which is a freeway here. The road then heads straight for 65 kilometers east to Junction City.
Junction City is a somewhat larger city on I-70. K-18 does not run through the center, but along the west side on US 77 and along the south side on I-70. Just after Junction City, K-18 turns off I-70 and heads northeast to Manhattan. The nearly 20-kilometer stretch to Manhattan is a 2×2 lane freeway. The road passes through the Manhattan Regional Airport and merges into an urban arterial in the west of the city. At the center one crosses the Kansas River again, after which K-18 forms a secondary route to K-99 south of Wamego.
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K-18 was originally slightly shorter. The road then started on US 40N (current US 24) at Bogue, but already ended on K-15 at Talmage. The extension to Junction City had not yet been constructed, and the main road between Junction City and Manhattan was the tarmac US 40S. Between Manhattan and south of Wamego, the road was numbered K-29. The then existing K-18 was completely unpaved in 1932.
The missing section between Talmage and Junction City was constructed in the mid 1930s. In the second half of the 1930s, parts of the road were upgraded to gravel roads. In 1940, however, not a single part was asphalted. In the first half of the 1940s fairly long stretches were asphalted, in 1945 a long stretch between Natoma and Bennington was asphalted, as well as the part between Talmage and Junction City. At the end of the 1940s, the section between Bennington and Talmage was asphalted. With this, more than two-thirds of the then K-18 was asphalted.
In the early 1950s, the remainder of western Kansas was paved, between US 24 and Natoma. At the same time, the K-18 was built as an asphalt road east of Junction City, but over a route to K-13 (current K-177) south of Manhattan, over the corridor where later US 40 and I-70 would be led. In the mid-1950s, the numbering east of Junction City was adjusted. US 40 was moved to a route south of the Kansas River, and thus south of Manhattan, along the route over which I-70 would be built not long after. The old route of US 40 between Junction City and Manhattan was renumbered K-18. The section east of Manhattan was also paved in the mid-1950s, but was still numbered K-29. This was renumbered to extension as K-18 in 1960,
The section between I-70 and the city of Manhattan has been constructed as a freeway, to compensate for the lack of freeway connectivity, as I-70 was constructed quite well south of Manhattan. First, the section north of the Kansas River, between Ogden and Manhattan, was converted into a 2×2 divided highway in 1962. In 1977, a new section was constructed between I-70 and Ogden, but this was a single-lane road. The old route between Junction City and Ogden was then renumbered K-114.
The connection between I-70 and Manhattan was only later upgraded to freeway. Originally, the road had one grade-separated connection, a trumpet connection with Seth Child Road on the west side of Manhattan. This was converted into a diamond connection in 2006, at the time it was still the only grade-separated connection of K-18, but the doubling from I-70 to Manhattan had already started. Initially, only about 2.5 miles was doubled to 2×2 lanes south of the Kansas River. In about 2011, the freeway along Ogden was completed, including a new bridge over the Kansas River, to Manhattan Regional Airport. Finally, the section between the airport and Manhattan has been converted into a freeway, partly on a new route, which was completed in 2014. The formal opening was on November 15, 2013.
The western part of K-18 is used very lightly, up to Junction City there are usually 500 to 1,000 vehicles per day, sometimes a little more at nearby villages. The freeway between I-70 and Manhattan handles 12,000 to 13,000 vehicles on the southern portion between I-70 and Ogden and 22,000 to 24,000 vehicles between Ogden and Manhattan. Every day, 11,000 vehicles cross the Kansas River near downtown Manhattan. The easternmost part still has 500 vehicles a day.