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Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Construction bogs Sixth Street traffic

Area best avoided, residents say

October 23, 2003

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David Sehorn has seen some of his neighbors along Sixth Street lose business since road renovations began in August. He hasn't had the same problem.

Then again, he runs an auto-body repair shop.

"We've had a few people come in and say, 'I had my wreck out there,'" said Sehorn, manager of Hite Collision Repair Center, 3401 W. Sixth St.

City officials acknowledge construction along a stretch of Sixth Street is creating traffic problems. But they say the result will be smoother traffic flow.

"We realize there's an inconvenience," said Chuck Soules, the city's director of Public Works. "When we get it completed, it'll add a lot of (traffic) capacity out there."

But Soules acknowledged he avoided the area on his way to and from his home in west Lawrence to work downtown at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

"It's terrible if you go out there at 5 o'clock and try to go west," he said.

The stretch of road work that's been snarling traffic along Sixth Street west of Iowa Street is actually two different projects:

    Construction of a right turn lane on Sixth Street at Lawrence
Avenue reduces the busy street to only one westbound lane. The city
is spending $253,000 on the project that also will add traffic
signals that allow left turns. Wednesday, traffic backed up on
Sixth Street beyond Schwarz Road.

    Construction of a right turn lane on Sixth Street at Lawrence Avenue reduces the busy street to only one westbound lane. The city is spending $253,000 on the project that also will add traffic signals that allow left turns. Wednesday, traffic backed up on Sixth Street beyond Schwarz Road.

  • At Lawrence Avenue, the city is spending $253,000 to build right turn lanes on Sixth Street and install traffic signals that will allow left turns.
  • At Kasold Drive, dual left turn lanes are being installed on Sixth Street, and Kasold will be widened for new turning lanes. The project costs $1.026 million, $550,000 of which comes from the federal government.

LRM Industries is doing both projects for the city, which has included relocating sewers in some areas.

Soules said he wasn't aware of an increase in traffic accidents along the corridor, adding that the intersections already were prone to wrecks. There is no suggested detour, he said, because the road is still open to traffic, even if clogged.





Construction on the projects began in August. Soules said the work was proceeding on schedule -- the Lawrence Avenue project should be complete before Thanksgiving, while the Kasold Drive project is due for completion by the end of the year.

The Kasold Drive project has been slowed because utilities weren't where workers thought they would be, Soules said. That has prompted a time-consuming relocation of gas and water lines.

In the meantime, drivers are contending with traffic that slows to a standstill in some places.

Eric Allen lives in the area. Wednesday afternoon he was shopping at the Dillons grocery store at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue.

The first day of construction, he said, "it took me 20 minutes to get from Iowa to here. I've told my friends, 'If you're going to Dillons, take the back road.' At rush hour, it's nuts."

Steve Prososki, owner of the Runza restaurant near Sixth and Kasold, said his business had been slowed by the blocked traffic -- and hampered earlier this week when construction workers hit water and gas lines in front of his establishment.

"We have a lot of loyal customers," he said. "These loyal customers have been great about keeping us afloat."

At least one nearby business is using construction as a selling point. Henry T's Bar & Grill is offering "Route 40" -- Sixth Street also is U.S. Highway 40 -- lunch specials.

"It's just something to do during construction," said Aubrey McCalman, a manager at the restaurant.

Business owners say they're willing to endure the short-term pain for the improved traffic flow that will result.

"Of course it affects us," Prososki said. "But as long as we can get through it, we'll benefit when it's done."

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