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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Waterline work kicks off

Businesses, shoppers will face hurdles during summer project

May 23, 2006

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Dump trucks rumbled, chain-link fence clattered, orange cones seemed to sprout from the ground.

Ah, the sights and sounds of Opening Day.

Monday was day one of this year's downtown waterline replacement season, which will last as long as many baseball seasons.

"It will be mid-September before it's completed, and that's weather-dependent, of course," said Chris Stewart, the city's director of utilities.

That means downtown motorists need to get used to major portions of Massachusetts Street being reduced to one-way traffic. The project, which is replacing a pair of approximately 100-year-old waterlines, will tear up Massachusetts Street from Seventh to Ninth streets.

During the first part of the project - expected to last about seven weeks - construction crews will be on the east side of the two-block section of Massachusetts Street. That means there will be no parking on the east side of the street, and that part of the street will be open only to southbound traffic.

Kevin O'Mara, Topeka, of Custom Concrete Cutting, makes his way down the 700 block of Massachusetts Street with a concrete saw. Work began Monday on a waterline replacement project, which will cause the downtown thoroughfare to be torn up from Seventh to Ninth Streets. The work is expected to last until mid-September.

Kevin O'Mara, Topeka, of Custom Concrete Cutting, makes his way down the 700 block of Massachusetts Street with a concrete saw. Work began Monday on a waterline replacement project, which will cause the downtown thoroughfare to be torn up from Seventh to Ninth Streets. The work is expected to last until mid-September.

After work on the east side is done, crews shift to the west side, and the process is flip-flopped - no parking on the west side and only northbound traffic.

Businesses are preparing to grin and bear it. Mark Swanson, an owner of Hobbs, 700 Mass., enters the project with an attitude much like a die-hard Royals fan begins the season - optimistic in the face of adversity.

"Will there be a little inconvenience? Probably," Swanson said. "Will it cause stores to work harder to get a hold of their customers? Sure, but that will make all of us better store owners."

Others are doing more bearing than grinning. Tom Wilcox, an owner of Round Corner Drug, 801 Mass., said the project will require some belt-tightening on the part of business owners.

"I do have an older clientele, and I know this will make it more difficult for them to get downtown," Wilcox said. "We have a delivery service, and we'll try to remind people about that. But regardless, it still will be painful."

Lindsey Owen, a candle maker with Waxman's Candles, said Wilcox was right in his assumptions. Waxman's, 609 Mass., was one of several businesses that were affected by last year's waterline project, which tore up parts of the 600 block of Massachusetts Street.

"It was right in front of our store, and our business slowed down a lot," Owen said. "People had a hard time even telling whether we were open or not. And it was so loud."

Bob Werts, an owner of Waxman's, estimated that his store's sales fell by about 20 percent. Owen's advice to businesses was to make sure to have good signs that indicate their stores are open, and work to make sure customers know about rear or side entrances to the stores that would allow people to avoid Massachusetts Street.

"Really, my main piece of advice is to just know that the project eventually is going to be done," Owen said. "Wait it out, and don't get too frustrated."

Shoppers' views


In a view from atop City Hall, southbound traffic is confined to one lane between Eighth and Ninth streets and again between 10th and 11th streets.  Construction crews began work Monday on the downtown waterline project, which is expected to last until mid-September.

In a view from atop City Hall, southbound traffic is confined to one lane between Eighth and Ninth streets and again between 10th and 11th streets. Construction crews began work Monday on the downtown waterline project, which is expected to last until mid-September.

Several shoppers downtown on Monday said they would try to not let the project limit their trips to downtown this summer.

"The only thing this would do to me is make me plan a little better before I come downtown," said Lawrence resident Jan Jess. "But I'm glad they're doing it now. It is better than when there are 30,000 students roaming around."

Stewart said the timing for the start of the project - the day after Kansas University's graduation - was not coincidental. He said city leaders wanted to keep the downtown free of construction during the busy period to aid merchants.

Stewart said the city will do its best to make sure the project affects businesses as little as possible. Sidewalks on both sides of the street will remain open throughout the project, midblock crosswalks will remain open, and crews won't work during downtown's annual sidewalk sale. Crews also normally won't be working on Saturdays and Sundays. On most weekdays, though, crews will begin work at 6:30 a.m. and work until 8 p.m.

"The message we're trying to get across to the public is that downtown is open," Stewart said.

The waterline replacement project is scheduled to conclude next year, with work taking place along Massachusetts Street from about Ninth Street to near South Park.

Comments

conservative 8 years, 7 months ago

I see nothing wrong with this project. Rebuilding infrastructure is necessary, and the city has done everything they can to limit the impact to businesses. Bravo.

GardenMomma 8 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure they'll find something wrong with it, complain about the lack of parking, and forget all about the parking garage downtown.

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