Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2003

At last, end near at 31st & Iowa

Construction work at intersection should be finished Friday

June 5, 2003


If the weather holds, the construction barrels that dominate the landscape near 31st and Iowa streets soon will be gone and the only orange in the area will be on the walls of the nearby Home Depot store.

And for the 14,000 vehicles a day that use 31st Street between Iowa and Haskell Avenue, it will be smooth sailing at last.

Deborah Nelson doesn't hide her feelings about the construction project that has caused headaches and delays since last September.

"Oh, that disastrous mess out there?" she asked. "The one that makes it take me 30 minutes to get to work when I work five minutes away?"

The construction work has made it especially difficult for residents of Gaslight Village, a mobile home park at 1900 W. 31st St., that Nelson calls home.

"We live here, and we don't know how to get home," she said. "You never know which road they have open."

Chuck Soules, director of the city's Public Works Department, said that except for a few wrap-up items at 31st Street and Nieder Road -- west of Iowa Street -- the construction that started Sept. 3 should be completed by Friday morning.

Construction crews working overnight planned to finish work on the Iowa Street portion of the project by this morning. Crews closed the west half of the street at 8 p.m. Wednesday to lay a final coat of asphalt; after the asphalt cooled, they were going to divert traffic to allow work on the eastern half of Iowa.

Tonight, weather permitting, crews will close 31st Street from Iowa to Ousdahl Road to finish that stretch. Work should be done and the project completed by 7 a.m. Friday.

Jessica Gonzales directs traffic at the intersection of 31st and
Iowa streets. The road-improvement project should be completed by
Friday morning.

Jessica Gonzales directs traffic at the intersection of 31st and Iowa streets. The road-improvement project should be completed by Friday morning.

New features

So far, construction expenses, not including write-off or engineering costs, add up to $2.65 million. The city capped its contribution at $1.3 million and the Kansas Department of Transportation paid $300,000. Home Depot, which opened a store in April at 1910 W. 31st St., footed the rest.

Soules said changes would include double turn lanes from Iowa onto 31st, widening 31st and installing new traffic signals and sidewalks.

Bill Reynolds, postmaster at Jayhawk Station post office, 1901 W. 31st St., said the changes would reverse how customers entered and exited the post office parking lot. Customers now enter the parking lot through a curb cut on the west end of the post office; as of Friday, customers will enter through a drive on the east end and exit to the west.

Reynolds said that the changes would be made before the post office could repaint arrows and parking spaces, but signs would be placed to help people adjust to the new system.

Although people may be confused while getting used to the new system, Reynolds said that the changes ultimately would benefit customers.

"Previously, customers leaving K-Mart or the post office had to turn across without protection," he said. "Now they have a light."

With Home Depot open and a Best Buy electronics store opening at the end of the month, traffic counts on 31st Street are projected to skyrocket. By 2025, traffic is projected to increase to about 30,000 vehicles a day on 31st Street east of Iowa Street.

Night work

Soules said the contractor chose to finish construction overnight because of safety concerns.

"The whole issue is traffic," he said. "To work in the amount of traffic that goes through that intersection is just not a safe situation."

Mike Russell, manager at International House of Pancakes, a 24-hour restaurant at 3102 Iowa, said he thought reducing Iowa to two lanes wouldn't hurt business, but today could be a problem.

"Closing 31st Street will be bad, especially on a Thursday," he said. "They just got used to coming that way again, and now it will be shut off."

Construction today also could bring more trying times for Gaslight Village residents. They will be able to access the complex only through the Home Depot parking lot.

The short-term situation isn't getting Deborah Nelson down, though. She said that many residents use the parking lot to get home, anyway.

"It's about the only way you know how to get in and out," she said. "I bet they think they've built a road there, not a parking lot."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.