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Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2004

Bump in road at Johnny’s may vex drivers no more

City, state plan repairs in next few years

August 22, 2004

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Depending on who's telling the story, that head-crunching bump in the road near Johnny's Tavern in North Lawrence is either young enough to attend elementary school or old enough to run for president.

Art Carlyle swears he remembers the bump from his time in Lawrence in 1969. And he can't believe it's still there.

"You know, all the construction going on around Lawrence all these years, and that place stayed the same," said Carlyle, chuckling after a recent visit to Lawrence. He now lives in Tennessee.

Ted Boyle said Carlyle remembered incorrectly. The bump, Boyle said last week, was born of a sinkhole created during the 1993 floods. And he can't believe it's still there.

"It's real dangerous," said Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Assn. "You watch people coming from the south, and they hit that -- they fly, they leave the ground. I've sat and watched pickups and trailers leave the ground."

Whatever its age, city officials say the bump is old enough.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has agreed to help pay for repairs to the road in the next few years, officials say, perhaps guaranteeing a smooth ride into North Lawrence for the first time in a long time.

"It is a safety issue. It catches people off guard, they don't expect it there," said Chuck Soules, the city's public works director. "And that's one of the reasons we want to get it repaired and want to do it correctly."

'Formidable'

A truck approaches the "bump" in front of Johnny's Tavern in North
Lawrence, a road hazard that some claim has been there since the
late 1960s. While city officials say the dip actually is only about
a decade old, they agree it's been there long enough. The state has
agreed to help pay for repairs at the intersection in the next few
years.

A truck approaches the "bump" in front of Johnny's Tavern in North Lawrence, a road hazard that some claim has been there since the late 1960s. While city officials say the dip actually is only about a decade old, they agree it's been there long enough. The state has agreed to help pay for repairs at the intersection in the next few years.

The bump is familiar to anyone who drives northbound over the Kansas River bridge into North Lawrence -- a near-invisible dip just after the end of the bridge, near the intersection of North Second and Locust streets, that often makes drivers feel they're losing control of their vehicles.

City Manager Mike Wildgen said there hadn't been many accidents reported around the bump. But the bump could be connected to a fatal accident last year.

Brian Arellano, 22, Topeka, died early March 1, 2003, after the car he was in went off the street and struck the sidewalk railing on the east side of North Second Street, near the railroad overpass. The police report said Arellano's vehicle was going "too fast for conditions" and that alcohol was a contributing factor in the accident.

Wildgen has long maintained that anybody driving the speed limit or slower has nothing to fear from the bump.

"That's my opinion: If you go the speed limit, it's not that difficult, not much of a bump," he said. "What I think happens is people come over the bridge pretty fast ... there are signs posted that warn of the bump. You have to take that good advice."





Rick Renfro, owner of Johnny's Tavern, where patrons can see the bump through a window at the bar, agreed.

"I drive by it four times a day, so I slow down -- I'm used to it," Renfro said. "But if you don't slow down, it can be quite a bump."

Carlyle disagreed, sending a letter to the editor of the Journal-World in early July after his visit to Lawrence.

"Even at the speed limit it is formidable," he wrote. "It was a real head-cruncher for me, and I was glad I was not in a small car but in a 2004 Ford 350."

The beginning, the end

The bump's origins are in dispute. Renfro is among those who said it existed long before the 1993 flood.

"You know, I think it was like that before they had the sinkhole over here," he said. "It wasn't any worse or any better."

Boyle and Soules date the bump's genesis to a sinkhole in the road that developed during the flood. Repairs were made -- after a long struggle -- and never revisited.

"We were really happy they fixed (the sinkhole), but shortly after that it got real old," Boyle said.

Soules said reconstruction of the intersection to smooth out the bump would cost $1.5 million or more. KDOT will pay 80 percent of the cost, but not until the state begins its 2008 fiscal year, meaning construction will begin no sooner than July 2007.

"The quicker the better. The quicker the better," Boyle said, worried that KDOT might run out of money for the project before then. "At least it's on the list, and that's good news."

Carlyle, reached by phone in Tennessee with news of the bump's impending demise, cackled with delight.

"I'll be darned! What miracle caused that?" he said. "It's been there forever. No kidding."

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