Archive for Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bridge closures are coming down pike

Kansas Turnpike Authority to replace spans between Lawrence interchanges

May 23, 2007


Bridges focus of turnpike renovation

It's the largest project in the 50-plus year history of the Kansas Turnpike. Enlarge video

Michael Johnston, Kansas Turnpike CEO, talks about the upcoming project to replace the Kansas River bridges in Lawrence.

Journal-World reporter Scott Rothschild talks with Michael Johnston, Kansas Turnpike CEO, about the upcoming project to replace the Kansas River bridges in Lawrence.

— This is the big one.

Kansas Turnpike Authority officials on Tuesday unveiled plans to replace the double bridge over the Kansas River in Lawrence at a cost of about $140 million.

The project will mean higher tolls and traffic problems, but Michael Johnston, president and chief executive officer of the KTA, said the finished product will make it worth the cost and hassle.

"This project will be a challenge during construction, but when it's finished it will better serve our customers and improve access between East and West Lawrence" interchanges, Johnston said.

He said engineering consultants have told the authority that the current bridges have reached the end of their life expectancy of 50 years and need to be replaced by 2012.

The $140 million estimated price tag makes the bridge project the most expensive one on the Kansas Turnpike, and is approximately what it cost to build the entire 236-mile road in the 1950s.

Construction is scheduled to start in May 2008 and be completed in about three years, by fall 2011.

Once finished, the project will have two new 2,300-foot bridges, which will have three lanes each and 10-foot wide shoulders; realigned approach ramps and acceleration lanes to and from the East and West Lawrence toll plazas; and an additional entry and exit lane at Plaza 204, known as the East Lawrence interchange.

The dirt will start flying within days.

"There is stuff going on now that is just prep for this project," said Rex Fleming, the project's chief engineer with the authority.

On Tuesday, the bridge that carries North Michigan Street over the Kansas Turnpike at milepost 202.2 will close for six to eight months for reconstruction. When the Michigan Street project is complete, the North Iowa Street bridge will close for similar reasons, also for six to eight months.

Starting in May 2008, there will be no westbound access to and from Plaza 202 at the West Lawrence interchange for eight months. After that is finished, the East Lawrence interchange will be closed for eight months. Improvements are planned at both plazas.

Fleming also said an additional lane being built at the Lecompton toll plaza will help traffic flow during work on the Lawrence plazas.

Tolls on the turnpike are increasing an average of 5 percent starting July 1. Part of the increased tolls are going toward paying for the bridge and plaza project, Johnston said.

In announcing plans for the project, turnpike officials also closed the book on the widening project between Lecompton and Topeka that added a lane in each direction for 12 miles.

Johnston said that project, which started in 2003, cost $65 million and was done on time. He said it was a discretionary project "done only to provide better service to our customers."

How long will it take?

Here's a timeline, provided by the Kansas Turnpike Authority, on a project to replace the Kansas River bridges and improve the West and East Lawrence interchanges.May 2008¢ Construction starts on new westbound bridge over Kansas River. That will take 15 to 18 months to complete. Westbound access to and from Plaza 202, West Lawrence, will be closed for about eight months and reopen in early 2009.¢ Once the westbound bridge is completed - likely in fall 2009 - all traffic will be moved to the new bridge while the two old bridges are destroyed and the new eastbound bridge is constructed. The eastbound bridge should be open to traffic in early 2011.Late 2009¢ Plaza 204, East Lawrence, will be closed to all traffic for about eight months. It will reopen in 2010.More information from the Kansas Turnpike Authority is available at


Lonestar1 10 years, 10 months ago

If Lawrence had a by-pass, the congestion caused for the next three years by the replacement of the Kansas River Bridge on I 70, would not be so much of a problem. I think delays and detours that burn up more fuel are much better for the environment, that rearranging a bit of man-made swamp land. Lawrence is always so forward thinking. I wonder if any other community in our great nation has a bridge to no place as a monument to obstructionism.

thunderbrick 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey, let's just close both eastbound and westbound lanes at the same time. The bridge could be completed faster and cheaper, just like the Lecompton bridge!


cutny 10 years, 10 months ago

What idiot is making these decisions?

Write2Know 10 years, 10 months ago

I think they should raise tuition at the Universities to pay for it.

HMcMellon 10 years, 10 months ago

Lonestart, are you supposed to be one of the "forward thinking" people in Lawrence?

For your information, most rational people consider forward thinking communities to be ones that protect and preserve their parks and wild areas for future generations.

Manhattan, for example, preserved the Kansa Prairie, which is four times larger than the Haskell-Baker Wetlands. Shawnee Mission preserved a similar large space to the Haskell-Baker Wetlands as Shawnee Mission Park. Do you think either Shawnee Mission or Manhattan would put a super highway through their precious green space? Not a chance.

Comparing Lawrence to Manhattan is like comparing a backwater of uneducated people in Mississippi with Harvard. The "forward thinkers" in Lawrence view parks and green space as wasted land to be developed.

For a University town, the commuters and sleazy developers, who have taken over Lawrence, are a bunch of uneducated, unenlightened hicks who never go outside except to get in their cars and drive somewhere. All they care about is making the other taxpayers shell out hundreds of millions for a stupid road so they can save 5 minutes on a commute back and forth to where they should never have left in the first place.

DaveR 10 years, 10 months ago

None of the video links on this site work on my computer. Funny thing, because all the porn comes through just fine. Checked just yesterday, in fact.

blessed3x 10 years, 10 months ago

"He said engineering consultants have told the authority that the current bridges have reached the end of their life expectancy of 50 years and need to be replaced by 2012."

-All you arm chair engineers out there are certainly correct. Safe bridges are in fact a wast of money. We should just build Dukes of Hazzard ramps at each end.

oldvet 10 years, 10 months ago

The only thing I see wrong in their plan is the sequence of closing the interchanges at 202 and 204... the 202 West Lawrence interchange has multiple on/off lanes and separate K-tag lanes while the 204 East Lawrence interchange has one on-lane sharing K-tag and tickets and only 2 off-lanes. Since they plan to upgrade the East interchange when it is closed, that should have been last, thus increasing the flow thru the on-off interchange during construction.

imastinker 10 years, 10 months ago

thunderbrick - that was my thought too!

FatTony 10 years, 10 months ago

I thought everybody on here lived in Lawrence, shopped in Lawrence, worked in Lawrence so who cares what happens to the turnpike. I really thought Lawrence would seal its borders to prevent outsiders from Topeka because they just come to loot and pillage downtown, and keep residents in to prevent them from driving to Johnson County where they have work to make a living because we all know there are hundreds of high paying jobs left unfilled in Lawrence. Seriously Lawrence is an average town with little charm, stop trying to think that it is some sort of special place. If you don't like development go live with the Amish. That way you will never have to worry about your wal-mart and you can shop at your "locally owned" Amish businesses.

average 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree with oldvet that the order is wrong from Lawrence's perspective. I guess there's an engineering reason for it, but the existing East Lawrence interchange is more likely to be jammed by adding West Lawrence traffic than vice versa would be.

What's the timetable on the Leavenworth County exit? The East Lawrence closure would be a whole lot easier on the people of Tonganoxie if the Tongie exit were in place.

formerlyKS 10 years, 10 months ago

Just goes to show how ignorant people like FatTony on this board are. The reason the turnpike was widened to six lanes between Lawrence and Topeka first and foremost was so Lawrence residents could get to their jobs in Topeka. As you say, Topeka residents "loot and pillage downtown"...funny, I notice the same thing by Douglas county residents in Topeka, stealing jobs and throwing their garbage on Topeka streets. If you don't like Topeka so much, stop commuting!!!!

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

HMcMellon: I don't think your glorification of ManCrappin has anything to do with this turnpike issue. It sounds like you're upset about K-State's trip to the NIT. Don't worry. I'm sure you'll have another shot at the NIT next year.

FatTony 10 years, 10 months ago

FormerlyKS - I admire your passion for your town, however I wish you were able to sense sarcasm and notice that my so called ignorance is actually calling out the narrow mindness of the citizens of Lawrence. In fact it those who I am mocking, since If you read these boards often as soon as there is a crime committed downtown the people on here will blame it on someone from Topeka. Then when someone wants to build a new neighborhood or a Wal-Mart or someother project that will take a way from their precious downtown and small town charm they will tell people to go to Johnson County. So ignorance I don't think so. In fact if you read my post throughly you would think that I commute to Johnson County for work, not crime ridden Topeka.

RKLOG 10 years, 10 months ago

Wow, I'm shocked and stunned. I can't believe how stupid the turnpike authority think their "customers" are. What a colossal waste of money.

Horace 10 years, 10 months ago

How can the Michigan street bridge be in need of replacement? No one ever drives across it.

walleye9898 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey HMcMellon -- there is a highway through the "Konza Prairie" it is called KS-177. Gets you from I-70 to Manhattan. Learn how to spell it -- Konza not Kansa. Shut the Turnpike down -- I don't drive it and don't need it. Plenty of other ways to get out of or around this town.

From an advantage perspective - redirect all that traffic off of I-70 and force it through downtown and maybe people will stop and spend some money (doubtful!).

By the way -- finish K-10 East!

Miles Nease 10 years, 10 months ago

What is the bridge going to look like? This is the perfect opportunity to create something that is both efficient and pleasing to the eye, like the Broadway Bridge in KC. Other states have really cool bridges. Why can't we? I'm sure, however, that it will be very basic. We wouldn't want to get too fancy in the good ol' state of Kansas.

pelliott 10 years, 10 months ago

I think it is a good idea. The turnpike carries a lot of traffic and bigger safer bridges sound reasonable. Why wait till they drop a few people in the water. They fought hard against the turnpike but it has worked to move a lot of traffic. Killed the quaint old diners and that is sad. But if you want romance, take forty sometimes from here to Topeka, your life will flash before your eyes. I like the cinnabun shop.

Angie Dick 10 years, 10 months ago

Why don't they just close evrey dang bridge? This is getting so out of hand. I under stand that they need to be replaced. But my goodness, it is just back to back. Do people need to resort to using a dang boat or plane to go anywhere now days? This is just INSANE! Pump up them Gas prices. oo dang forgot, They already did that. humm here for long we will be lucky to have money to buy food. but we will have all kinds of pretty bridges. Hope everyone like's the taste of asfault. Sorry, just flustered. I know it needs to be done but all at once?

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