Archive for Monday, December 3, 2007

North Lawrence to face brunt of traffic woes

Kansas Turnpike Authority President Michael Johnston will chat online about the Kansas Turnpike project that will see new bridges built over the Kansas River and upgrades made to the Lawrence toll booths.

Kansas Turnpike Authority President Michael Johnston will chat online about the Kansas Turnpike project that will see new bridges built over the Kansas River and upgrades made to the Lawrence toll booths.

December 3, 2007


KTA announces bridge replacement plans

The Kansas Turnpike Authority announced exactly how plans to replace the bridges over the Kansas river will affect your commute. Construction will begin in June, closing the west Lawrence interchange to westbound traffic for about eight months. Enlarge video

There's going to be a traffic mess in North Lawrence.

Now, city commissioners just have to decide which year they want to hear from the disgruntled motorists.

Commissioners at their meeting tonight will get briefed on a pair of projects that are expected to create the undesirable combination of increased traffic and increased road construction along the busiest routes in North Lawrence.

Project No. 1 is the replacement of the Kansas River turnpike bridges. That $140 million project will begin directing more traffic this summer onto Lawrence's eastern turnpike interchange, which is in North Lawrence. Project No. 2 is a long-planned reconstruction of North Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence. That project also will be happening this summer, which means the increasing number of vehicles exiting the turnpike will be turning into a major city construction project that will limit traffic to one lane in each direction.

Not ideal, both city and turnpike leaders concede. But there also doesn't appear to be an easy alternative, transportation leaders said.

"It is going to be tough either way," said Chuck Soules, the city's director of Public Works. "There are going to be delays, and people are going to have to expect it."

One alternative is to push the reconstruction of the North Second Street intersection - which will add left-turn lanes and make stormwater improvements to alleviate flooding at the nearby railroad underpass - back to 2009.

At first glance, that looks like a winner. That's because by 2009, the turnpike bridge project will have shifted to a different phase. In 2009, the turnpike will close the eastern Lawrence turnpike interchange to all traffic for about 8 months.

But Soules said that may not be the best time to do the North Second Street roadwork. That's because any vehicle on the turnpike needing to access North Lawrence will have to exit the turnpike either at the West Lawrence or Lecompton turnpike interchanges, drive through the city and approach North Lawrence from the south. That essentially means all North Lawrence traffic will be going through the intersection of North Second and Locust streets.

"I don't know which scenario is going to increase the traffic more," said David Jacobson, chief engineer for the turnpike.

City commissioners said Monday that they want to get such issues figured out.

"We've got a lot of major work along a major entrance into the community," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. "We have to really plan this out because I want to inconvenience the least number of drivers as possible."

What doesn't seem likely to change is the turnpike project. The replacement of the bridges is the largest single replacement project the turnpike has ever undertaken and represents years of planning. As part of that project, the turnpike previously announced that there would be major changes to both the western Lawrence and eastern Lawrence turnpike interchanges.

In the summer of 2008, the turnpike will close half of the western Lawrence interchange for 8 months. The closing will prohibit westbound motorists from using the interchange to enter or exit the turnpike. That's expected to affect about 5,000 vehicles per day. City and turnpike leaders don't know how many of those 5,000 vehicles will use the eastern Lawrence interchange versus the Lecompton interchange.

In the summer of 2009, the turnpike will close the eastern Lawrence interchange to all traffic for about eight months. The western Lawrence interchange, however, will be open.

Regardless of when the city does its intersection project, Soules said, motorists should expect traffic back-ups during rush hours. He said lines of traffic stretching across the northbound Kansas River bridge at Sixth and Massachusetts streets probably would be common during peak traffic times.

The intersection project is budgeted to cost $1.9 million with the state paying up to $1 million of the cost. Soules said pushing the project back a year likely would increase the cost of the project by 5 percent to 10 percent.

"Construction products definitely aren't getting any cheaper," Soules said.

Commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


bearclaws 10 years, 5 months ago

Just make sure to fix the lights at N. 2nd and Locust before any of this happens. Up until two months ago, that light worked just fine. It was always green for north-south traffic and triggered a red light only by a car needing to cross.

Someone started monkeying with it, and now it is on a timer. 90% of the time, north-south traffic has to sit there while nobody is at the light from the east or the west.

With so many lights needing adjustment in town, why screw up one of the few that actually worked well?

gvermooten 10 years, 5 months ago

"The project will be the largest project in KTA history and will cost more than the original cost of building the entire freeway in the 1950s."

This statement in the caption to the main picture is interesting, but totally inaccurate. The road is a TURNPIKE. One pays to use it. That is a "highway", but it is not a "freeway", and never has been.

Is the Journal-World ever going to get staff who know how to use a dictionary? In a town with two universities and, one hopes, a higher than average level of education, it would be nice to have a paper that reflects it.

markle 10 years, 5 months ago

The real question may be: What is the justification for the new bridges and fancy new interchanges? It seems the KTA is constantly looking for ways to spend money and many of their decisions (from the outside looking in anyway) seem random and arbitrary ways of "improving" things that seem perfectly good, e.g. the now defunct rest area between here and Topeka. Frankly, if they want to improve traffic flow, they should consider helping to inform the driving public about the most efficient and safest ways to drive on 2 and 3 lane highways. There is no effort by KTA or the state for that matter to improve traffic flow or safety by creating and enforcing safe driving culture.

trinity 10 years, 5 months ago

going to be real fun getting to slowride on my scooter, eh?

this whole deal sounds like a poorly planned mess, to me. and i don't even live in lawrence.

Eric Neuteboom 10 years, 5 months ago

"What is the justification for the new bridges and fancy new interchanges?"

Markle, I think it's two-fold. One, the recent bridge collapse tragedy in Minnesota, and two, the fact that these bridges are near the end of their "lifespan."

Glad I work locally!

average 10 years, 5 months ago

markle -

The big KTA spans over the Kaw are relatively old. Possibly rehab-able, but not too cost-effective.

The rest of the work (replacing the North Iowa bridge, replacing the bridge that forms part of the West Lawrence interchange, replacing the box culvert tunnels of the East Lawrence interchange) are all part of expanding the KTA to 3 lanes from Topeka to KC.

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 5 months ago

The problem falls squarely on the shoulders of the city: they've known about the problems of flooding at the railroad bridge for 50 years but couldn't get off their behinds to fix it.

BigPrune 10 years, 5 months ago

The KTA guy looks like Gene Kelly. Singing in the rain, just singing in the rain.

average 10 years, 5 months ago

Hipper than hip -

I can go you one better than that. The city should have been working with the UP Railroad some point in the last 40 years to move most of the trains out of North Lawrence and the Don Ball curve. I think there should still be a siding in North Lawrence, but with only enough local traffic that the damn underpass could have been replaced decades ago (UP can't do anything on it now because closing it for any length of time would be a nationwide problem). It would make North Lawrence more attractive and safer.

workinghard 10 years, 5 months ago

Isn't North Second St also a state highway? Do they have some say in what happens? I was told by someone in the state highway department that when the railway underpass flooded in the 90's the state highway department would have been willing to help with pumps and work (pay for them in other words) but the city didn't ask or want their help.

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