North Lawrence road construction
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.