Some little black boxes installed near a railroad spur crossing through the northern edge of the downtown are arousing the curiosity of Lawrence residents.
George Williams, public works director, said his office has been inundated with calls from residents who want to know about the boxes, which are known as "blank-out lights."
The blank-out lights were installed as part of the city's agreement with the Santa Fe Railway, which refurbished street crossings over the spur in 1989. The spur services the Journal-World.
The lights, which are posted on northbound Kentucky at Sixth Street, on eastbound Sixth at Vermont Street, and on southbound Vermont at Sixth, will prohibit right turns from intersections near the spur when a train crosses the tracks.
"They're designed to hold traffic while the spur is being used," City Manager Mike Wildgen said. Now, railroad workers simply set warning flares on Sixth, Vermont and Massachusetts streets before the train crosses those roads.
Terese Gardner, city engineer, said the lights probably would be ready for use in about 10 days, when workers finish installing new traffic signal controllers at Sixth and Vermont and Sixth and Kentucky. The controllers are being installed not only to allow use of the blank-out lights, but to allow the city to adjust timing cycles for the traffic signals at those two intersections.
Cost of the blank-out lights and controllers is $18,500.