Hundreds of motorists will need to call a game-day audible as they enter and exit Lawrence for Kansas University's season-opening football game, now just two weeks away.
And traffic officials will be posting electronic message boards, buying advertising on pregame radio shows and even stopping traffic on the way into town to be sure drivers understand that ongoing construction at a turnpike interchange likely will force more than 3,000 detours Aug. 30, the day KU and Florida International take the field.
"It's going to be a challenge," said Capt. John Walters, of the Kansas Highway Patrol. "The first game will probably be a big learning experience."
Walters was among 23 other officials - representing law enforcement, traffic engineering, the Kansas Turnpike Authority and other operations - to huddle Friday morning in Lawrence to refine this season's game plan for traffic, now that two ramps at the turnpike's West Lawrence interchange are closed for construction. The interchange is at the north end of McDonald Drive, just past the Hallmark Cards production plant.
The interchange's ramps are closed for traffic headed into town from the Kansas City area, and for traffic headed out of Lawrence toward Topeka, as crews replace a bridge that crosses the turnpike. The interchange's other two ramps remain open.
For last season's opening game, more than 3,000 drivers came into town using the interchange, according to the turnpike authority. That means hundreds of drivers on the turnpike will need to find a different exit this season:
¢ Drivers coming to the game from the Kansas City area will be expected to use the East Lawrence interchange, which is exit 204 and empties into North Lawrence, leads toward downtown Lawrence and, eventually, Memorial Stadium. Such drivers then could choose leave town the same way, or opt for the West Lawrence interchange, which is exit 202.
¢ Drivers leaving the game, and headed west toward Topeka, could choose to take Sixth Street to the South Lawrence Trafficway and connect with the turnpike at the Lecompton interchange, exit 197. Exit 204 also would be an option, but exit 202 - the one that is open to incoming traffic from Topeka - is closed to traffic headed back.
The turnpike authority's postgame message for Topeka-bound drivers, who come into town at exit 202: "YOU CAN'T GO BACK THE WAY YOU CAME." The message will be printed on hundreds of flyers, to be handed out Aug. 30 at the exit for hours leading up to the game.
Even cars in the K-TAG lane will be stopped to get the written warning, and extra toll collectors and other personnel will be on duty to get the word out.
"They'll have their game face on and ready to help drivers who are frustrated," said Lisa Callahan, who is coordinating the turnpike's notification campaign.
Collectors also will have printed directions available for displaced drivers looking for guidance in getting to the stadium or familiar landmarks, such as hotels. Officials are working on plans to open up additional lanes at interchanges to accommodate shifting traffic flows.
But Ron Olin, Lawrence police chief, reminded everyone at the meeting that even the best preparations would not be able to eliminate the potential for frustration. Even with all interchanges open, he said, traffic has backed up so much for games against Nebraska that some fans couldn't make it into Memorial Stadium until halftime.
"Everybody knows what the problem is," he said. "The stadium's in the middle of a residential area."