Archive for Friday, March 22, 2002

Residents welcome upgrade

March 22, 2002

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— Three Kentucky coffee bean trees. Five red cedars. A few feet trimmed from the front yard of his 147-year-old farmhouse.

Such is the price John Solbach must pay to make way for a reconstruction of Stull Road west of Lawrence, and he's all for it.

The payoff: improved traffic safety and personal peace of mind.

"Since we've lived here, there have been two or three people killed out here within a half-mile of our house," said Solbach, a resident of 359 N. 1600 Road for 28 years. "I recall waking up in the morning with the sound of vehicles impacting the rock and dirt in the ditch after leaving the road. We've had people come through our fence. We've had people come through our mailbox. We've seen a number of accidents with people in cars that were upside down in front of our house. Â

"It's a dangerous piece of road."

And that's why state and Douglas County officials are preparing to overhaul a 2.3-mile section of the busy two-lane thoroughfare later this year.

The estimated $1.9 million construction project will shave the tops of hills, fill the depths of valleys and add the security of shoulders to Stull Road  formally known as Douglas County Route 442, or East 1600 Road  from just east of Stull to the road's intersection with Douglas County Route 1029.

The stretch is among the busiest in the county's road system, carrying about 3,600 vehicles per day, said Keith Browning, the county's director of Public Works.

Many of the travelers are commuters between Lawrence and Topeka. The road connects to U.S. 40 west of Lawrence and becomes 45th Street in Shawnee County.

In May or June, officials will be accepting bids from construction companies interested in handling the project, Browning said. Construction could begin in August, with the work continuing into the spring.

Expect both lanes of traffic to be closed to through traffic during construction, he said. Residents in the area  there are 28 separate tracts affected directly by the project  will continue to have access to their homes, farms and pastures during construction.

The stretch is the only section of Stull Road that does not already have roadside shoulders, Browning said.

Adding shoulders likely will make the most difference, Solbach said. Crews poured enough material a few years ago to add "two or three feet" to the roadside, but it hasn't been enough.

"If you're not paying attention, it only takes a second to go off the pavement," he said.

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