Archive for Wednesday, June 16, 1999

CONSTRUCTION ON TURNPIKE TAKINGTOLL

June 16, 1999

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Summer construction once again is slowing traffic on the Kansas Turnpike and Interstate 70.

White knuckles, and not white lines, might be ahead for anxious vacationers who want to trade the Plains for the mountains as they head west this summer.

Several major road projects on Interstate 70, including a project near Lawrence, have narrowed sections of the road to one lane in each direction.

Highway officials, however, have a piece of advice for road-weary travelers who want to leave the orange barrels behind: Slow down. Be patient.

"Unfortunately, our busy time of the year is also the time most people take vacations or are traveling," said Stan Whitley, a spokesman for Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). "We just ask people to bear with us because the fact that we are working means that we're making the road better."

Of the projects KDOT and the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) are working on now, six of them have squeezed I-70 from four to two lanes, one in each direction. Generally, that means traffic must slow down from 70 mph to 60 mph.

Only 36.5 miles of Interstate 70 from Missouri to Colorado will be restricted to single-lane traffic this summer, but motorists still need to plan.

"We try to manage the projects as best we can so there are few delays," said Tom Wurdeman, chief engineer for the KTA, which oversees I-70 from Topeka to Kansas City, Kan.

"We haven't been having too much trouble other than on Friday evenings, when we have commuter travel and (Clinton) Lake travel," Wurdeman said, referring to bottlenecks near Lawrence, where the KTA is replacing seven miles of westbound lane in a $7 million project. The estimated completion date is September of this year.

While congestion can be expected at any construction site during rush hours, KDOT figures compiled last year show that Interstate 70 in eastern Kansas gets more traffic.

Whitley said average traffic counts just west of Topeka range close to 21,000 vehicles a day; that number thins to 13,800 from Abilene to Salina and 7,100 from Goodland to Colby.

The total cost of KDOT's I-70 construction projects, including bridge restorations in Saline and Trego counties, is $113.5 million; KTA's three projects will cost an estimated $110.3 million.

The KTA's projects are a $95 million, three-year construction of an interchange with Kansas Highway 4 and I-470 at the East Topeka exit, an $8.3 million project to move the toll booths near the Bonner Springs exit, and $7 million for the reconstruction project near Lawrence.

The KTA is moving the Eastern Terminal toll booths seven miles west. Among the reasons for the move, Wurdeman said, is construction of a new NASCAR track in Wyandotte County.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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