Archive for Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Turnpike bridge replacement may affect drivers for 3 years

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.

November 7, 2007


KTA preps for $140 million bridge replacement

Kansas Turnpike officials prepare for the largest project in the history of the 50-year-old road. 6News reporter Crispin Lopez has the details about the major construction plans in north Lawrence. Enlarge video

KTS Kansas River Bridge construction

KTS Kansas River Bridge construction

Recent road work

During the past few years, the Kansas Turnpike Authority has overseen major improvements to the turnpike between Topeka and Lawrence.

The improvements were spurred in 2001 when the results of a long-term needs study were announced. Among the improvements was the widening to three lanes of a 14-mile stretch from Topeka to Lecompton. The cost was $75 million.

Additional widening is under way in Lawrence, which caused bridges over the turnpike to be rebuilt and lengthened at Kasold Drive and North Michigan Street. The Kasold bridge was completed and reopened last month. Workers will pour a new deck on the Michigan bridge this week, KTA officials said. The bridge will be completed this year.

When the Michigan Street bridge is done, the North Iowa Street bridge over the turnpike will be rebuilt.

Think of it as the "mother of all projects."

That's how Mike Johnston describes what will be a $140 million, three-year effort to replace the turnpike bridges over the Kansas River in Lawrence - and rebuild the city's two interchanges.

"It's a huge project for us," Johnston, the Kansas Turnpike Authority's chief executive, said during an informational meeting Tuesday at the Lawrence Visitor Center.

"It is going to entail some very challenging traffic management issues for the community," he said.

The project is necessary because by 2012 the bridges will have reached the end of their serviceability, Johnston said.

"The bridges have to be replaced," he said. "That's not discretionary. It is going to be a real trying experience from time to time."

Bid-letting for the project is set for May, and construction on a new westbound bridge is expected to start in June.

The new westbound, three-lane river bridge will be constructed just north of the existing bridges, said KTA project engineer Rex Fleming.

"It will be a much larger structure than what we have now," Fleming said.

The new bridges will span 2,300 feet.

Motorists definitely will notice when work begins next summer on the east and west Lawrence interchanges.

A bridge over the turnpike carrying traffic from the west Lawrence toll plaza to the westbound lanes will be torn down. That means motorists who use that entrance to the turnpike to head to Topeka and beyond will have to use other entrances for about eight months.

In mid-2009, the second phase of the project will start, when all traffic in both directions is moved onto the newly constructed bridge over the river. Construction on a new eastbound bridge will start next and the old bridges will be torn down.

In addition, the east Lawrence toll plaza will be closed to all traffic for eight months while it is rebuilt. The new toll plaza will be larger than the existing one.

The final phase will come in 2011 with completion of the eastbound bridge and resurfacing along the 2-mile corridor between the two interchanges. Taller concrete barriers will be installed in the median.

Consideration was given to options that would keep the east Lawrence toll plaza open during reconstruction but it would take longer and add to the cost, Johnston said. KTA representatives said it would extend the construction project by at least a year and add $9 million to $10 million to the cost.

"We didn't look seriously at it because one of the chief goals is to get it done as soon as we possibly can," Johnston said.

Rebuilding the interchanges will mean they can handle increased traffic. About 31,000 vehicles a day travel by Lawrence on the turnpike, Johnston said. Traffic increases by about 1.5 percent each year, he said.

Several city, county and public safety officials attended the meeting.

"We're going to need to closely coordinate with them (KTA) in regards to the impact this is going to have on the community; particularly, the plaza closings are going to be a significant impact to the traveling public and the nearby businesses," City Manager Dave Corliss said. "We want to make sure we're not going to be repaving a road that will be an important detour."

Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson said the turnpike improvements - although inconvenient - will have a positive effect on the area.

"People will get awfully frustrated at times," he said. "I'll probably be one of them, but three years is a relatively short period of time."


KS 10 years, 7 months ago

Past due and when done will be a great asset for Lawrence.

labmonkey 10 years, 7 months ago

It's good to see that Kansas is not going to let what happened in Mn. this summer happen here. While building these bridges, why not also build a commuter rail between KC and Topeka since there won't be many internal-combustion-engined vehicles (I know they probably thought that 50 years ago too...but there will be no oil) in 50 years when the new bridge goes out of service.

classclown 10 years, 7 months ago

"Why would KTA have authority over the bridges coming into Lawrence? These aren't on the turnpike. Or am I missing something here?"


The turnpike crosses the river.

average 10 years, 7 months ago

I still think it would have been very sensible to improve the already-inadequate East Lawrence interchange before trying to double its traffic load by largely shutting down the West interchange. Just me.

Xwards 10 years, 7 months ago

I hope the bridges will be aesthetically pleasing instead of the bland bridges that are there now.

average 10 years, 7 months ago

Pilgrim -

Thousands of cars come from the northern half of the Kansas City area to Iowa Street (most KU destinations included) via I-70 and the West Lawrence interchange. They will be getting off at the one-lane East Lawrence interchange, at least coming to Lawrence. Westbound lanes mean "from KC", not just "to Topeka".

average 10 years, 7 months ago

Just to add, that also means semis coming from KC on the turnpike toward Hallmark, Purina, Lawrence Box, Packer, K-Mart distribution, etc.

Just eight months, though.

Bladerunner 10 years, 7 months ago

Dear KDOT,

Please add millions of dollars to the cost of the bridges and take extra time in the construction so that Xwards can be pleased aesthetically while he/she crosses. Thank you.


An unconcerned uneducated citizen.

Bwaaaaaaaaaa Haaaaaaaa Haaaaaaaa

Some people just make you shake your head.

Ken Miller 10 years, 7 months ago

It might be nice to know how much TOLLS are projected to increase as a result of the "mother of all projects." Not only will this project inconvenience motorists, but eventually it will also impact the fee we pay to the KTA.

craigers 10 years, 7 months ago

Oscar, have you ever heard of inflation? They only increase the fees about every 3 years to help keep the road in as good of condition as possible. They have done very well making the road 6 lanes from Lecompton to Topeka as well as keeping the road very smooth for the cost that you pay. The cost of business goes up, you have to fund it by changing your prices.

toefungus 10 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence is used to projects creating inconvenience and taking a long long time. Three years will be nothing. Game days will be exciting. The 20-year delay on building the bypass will make this project look speedy!

jaycat 10 years, 7 months ago


I'm pretty sure they increased the tolls in June or July to start funding this project.

jmadison 10 years, 7 months ago

Why is the KTA still in existence? Their limitation of access points between KC, Lawrence, and Topeka is a hindrance to economic growth. The turnpike opened in 1954, I believe, and should be a freeway by now.

Ken Miller 10 years, 7 months ago


Have you ever heard of the County Road 1 NEW KTA interchange for Tonganoxie? You think inflation-based increases will pay completely for that? WRONG. Our tolls are going to go up, and the reporter for this story should have asked about it.

dozer 10 years, 7 months ago

Why hasn't KTA expired? Anyone know who decided they could keep operating and charging tolls? Fact is, they can keep jacking up tolls b/c no one wants to use the alternative highways like 40 which is a death trap in bad weather.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 7 months ago

So long as paving things over seems to be the greatest collective accomplishment we're capable of around here, let's do this right.

This is where the Kansas River and the Kansas Turnpike intersect, so the bridge should be a showpiece. I say pay HNTB in KC to design something impressive -- like the Zakim/Bunker Hill bridge in Boston. It should be a Kansas icon that could drive tourism to our area.

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