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Archive for Thursday, May 10, 2001

Bridges’ days numbered

Replacement of Kaw structures among turnpike improvement plans

May 10, 2001

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The Kansas Turnpike Authority will replace the two bridges that span the Kansas River between the east and west Lawrence turnpike exits. Estimated cost: $77 million.

If things go right, KTA will add third lanes east and west to the toll road between east Topeka and the Lecompton exit. Estimated cost: Almost $84 million.

Vehicles roll across the Kansas Turnpike Authority bridges above
the Kansas River Wednesday near the East Lawrence Interchange. The
KTA will replace the two bridges at an estimated cost of $77
million.

Vehicles roll across the Kansas Turnpike Authority bridges above the Kansas River Wednesday near the East Lawrence Interchange. The KTA will replace the two bridges at an estimated cost of $77 million.

Also being considered, but less likely to happen, are six lanes between Lecompton and the KTA intersection with Kansas Highway 7 at Bonner Springs. Estimated cost: $202 million

All told, turnpike officials are eyeing about $445 million in major road improvements and maintenance spending within the next 11 years, most of it near or at Lawrence.

"These are horse-choking numbers. Clydesdale-choking numbers," said KTA president Mike Johnston. "It's the biggest deal since the turnpike was built" in 1954.

A 5 percent general increase in tolls effective July 1 on the 236-mile road that runs from Kansas City to Wellington would help retire bonds to finance the projects delineated in KTA's new "long-term needs study."

It will be the first toll hike in nine years, Johnston said.

Turnpike officials will unveil the study results and make other related announcements during a press conference today in Topeka.

Johnston also will say today that highway work in east Topeka, the so-called Oakland Expressway project, will be completed about Aug. 1, ahead of schedule and under budget. The roadwork there has been a joint project of the KTA, the state, and local municipalities. KTA has paid 39 percent of the project's $93 million cost.

Johnston said it will be complete several weeks sooner for about $6 million less than projected.

Several of the projects outlined in the long-term study to be unveiled today remain uncertain, depending upon turnpike revenues and expenses and traffic needs during the next few years.

The only certain elements in the plan, Johnston said, are replacement of the Kansas River bridges by 2010, but perhaps sooner, and several improvements, mostly on the southern half of the turnpike, slated for this year and next. Also included in the plan is relocation of the Topeka service area.

Among the certain, southern improvements:

l Replacing the service area restaurants at Towanda and Matfield Green. Cost: $16.5 million.

l Replacement of the KTA's southern terminal near Wellington, $16.5 million.

Most likely of the projects outlined between Topeka and Bonner Springs is the addition of east and westbound lanes between east Topeka and Lecompton, Johnston said. The KTA study shows that segment is the most heavily traveled on the turnpike, averaging about 29,000 vehicles daily.

The turnpike east of Lawrence is traveled almost as heavily, averaging about 25,000 vehicles daily between east Lawrence and Bonner Springs. But other road developments could make extra lanes east of Lawrence less needed, namely state improvements or modifications to Kansas Highways 10 and 24-40 and completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

KTA operates independent of the state highway department, funded solely by tolls and other fees.

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