A complex construction project on the West Lawrence Turnpike toll plaza will take place this year.
Commuters who use the Kansas Turnpike's West Lawrence interchange might feel a little inconvenienced from late February to September.
That's when a $3.1 million, four-phased construction project will take place on the toll plaza.
"It's a big project," said Rich Olson, a design and construction engineer for the Kansas Turnpike Authority. "It will just make this thing a whole lot better."
The toll plaza will remain open during construction, but traffic will be routed around the construction as it takes place.
When it's complete, the plaza will have two entry lanes instead of one and four exit lanes instead of three, including lanes for electronic toll K-TAG traffic.
During the project, McDonald Drive will be widened, exit ramps will be improved and the plaza will have a new canopy and personnel building, Olson said. LRM Industries, Lawrence, is the contractor.
Construction already has begun on the exit ramp project. Work will be delayed on the toll plaza area to accommodate out-of-town KU basketball fans who use the Turnpike.
The last KU home basketball game is Feb. 26, "and we don't want to do anything before that," Olson said.
Under the first phase, the current dedicated K-TAG lane will be closed, and there will be two exit lanes and one entry lane. K-TAG customers will be routed through "dual mode" entry and exit lanes, he said.
The first phase, which will last through mid-May, will be on the west side of the toll plaza. It will include construction of a new toll building and a utility tunnel. McDonald Drive north of Second Street will be widened to the toll plaza.
In the second phase, construction will move to the east side of the toll plaza. During that time, there will be one lane of entry and three lanes of exit through the plaza.
The second phase will include construction of a new dedicated K-TAG lane and widening on the east side of McDonald Drive. That phase probably will last through the end of June.
During the third phase, work will be done on the central part of the plaza, and drivers will have one entry and two exit lanes.
"This might be the worst one because we have to narrow things down and put a temporary booth in," Olson said.
The final island in the center part of the plaza will be built during that phase, which will last until mid-August.
The final phase of the project will include taking out the existing personnel building and the final existing toll booth and finishing the pavement, he said.
The project should be complete Sept. 1, depending on how the construction goes in each of the phases, Olson said.
"We're trying to be done before KU football traffic begins," he said.