Kansas officials are looking to update information on K-7 across GPS platforms as a temporary alternative to a total road rebuild. 

Just this year, more than a dozen semi trucks have rolled on highway K-7 north of Girard due to its narrow lanes and lack of shoulder. While the road is hazardous on its own, state and county officials are saying that incorrect information on GPS platforms is leading truck drivers astray by either failing to list the narrow width of the road, or listing it incorrectly. 

Officials are currently working on a plan “to kind of rehab” the roadway by adding a shoulder and reducing grades, but say they don’t expect the work to begin until at least 2022. Because of this, they are searching for a quick, temporary solution: enter changes to GPS platforms. 

“When we first brought K-7 up they talked about reconstructing it, and from Girard up to the county line it’s about 11 miles and it was going to cost $46 million, and then from the county line on up to 69 that’s about 10 miles and that was going to cost $42 million,” said Wayne Gudmonson, Kansas Department of Transportation District 4 engineer to The Morning Sun.

“Now that’s [2022] kind of the best scenario, you know,” he said. “We’re not sure what the worst case scenario would be…. If we’re looking at two years best, I think the number one thing that will make the biggest difference is getting that off the GPS,”

Gudmonson and local police officers say that, because some navigation systems list the road as being 24 feet wide, or fail to list the width at all, truck drivers believe the route is safe, when in fact the roadway is less than 24 feet wide and “there’s no room for error,” said Sheriff Danny Smith.

“So our traffic engineering department has been trying to get in touch — and that is a real challenge at some of those huge companies like that — trying to get in touch with somebody to get that data in that database of theirs changed, because the road is not that wide,” Gudmonson said.

“And trying to find the right person to get that changed, I don’t know where to go to find that, and neither does traffic engineering, because they have been working on it pretty much tirelessly.”

In regards to the use of Google Maps by truck drivers, Google has made a statement explaining that: “We’ve designed Google Maps for drivers of standard-sized vehicles, and don’t currently include routing tailored to drivers of oversized vehicles,” a Google spokesperson said in an email. “We encourage these drivers to use navigation tools designed specifically for their vehicle type. As always, users can send feedback to notify us of any inaccuracies in the map.”

Still, officials are motivated to get the information changed to accurately reflect the width of the road as part of their temporary solution to the perilous K-7 situation. 

“We’ve just been lucky that nobody’s got killed,” Smith said. “And that’s what my biggest concern is, that somebody is going to get killed. That there’s going to be a passenger car or something like that that gets involved in this, and usually those aren’t good results.”