When it comes to the pending reconstruction of Stull Road west of Lawrence, Keith Browning is happily taking the good with the bad this week.
The good news: It looks like the project will cost $1.4 million, or 22 percent less than expected.
The bad news: Construction should start late next month, leading to six months of detours and phone calls from frustrated drivers.
In the end it's a worthwhile tradeoff, said Browning, the county's director of public works.
"It is a busy road and it will definitely be an inconvenience for people, the traveling public, but we realize there's not a lot we can do about it," he said. "Because of the increasing traffic on this road, these improvements are important."
After more than five years of planning, the project soon will widen and rebuild portions of a 2.3-mile stretch of Douglas County Road 442 commonly known as Stull Road west of Douglas County Road 1029.
The project is designed to make the popular Lawrence-to-Topeka commuter route safer for travel, mostly by making it easier for people to see. Crews will shave the tops off hills and fill the depths of valleys along the two-lane road.
The project also will add gravel shoulders and create roadside ditches that slope gently to the side, reducing the chances of cars rolling over if they veer off the road.
About 3,600 vehicles travel the route each day, up from 2,400 in 1985. The road will be closed to through traffic during construction, meaning rural residents will be able to get to their homes but others will be asked to make other plans.
The posted detour would take drivers on U.S. Highway 40 and a 2.5-mile section of Douglas County Route 1023, a stretch unlikely to entice urban drivers.
"It's gravel," Browning said. "Enough said."
Browning said he expected construction to begin in late August or early September and continue for six months.
This week, the Kansas Department of Transportation opened bids for the project, and all five offers to do the work came in below the $1.8 million estimate developed by engineers. The state is picking up the tab for 80 percent of construction costs, leaving the rest to the county.
The low bid $1.4 million came from King's Construction Co. Inc. of Oskaloosa. It's the same company that successfully handled two recent projects for the county: rebuilding the spillway dam at Lone Star Lake, and restoring the historic Chicken Creek Bridge.
State officials are expected to award the contract next week.
"If that does hold up, I think we'll get a good job at a very reasonable price," said Browning, who noted that the contract would save the county about $80,000. "Anytime we can get a good bid like this, it could mean we could get another project in."