File photos from the 1954 ground-breaking of the Kansas Turnpike in Lawrence.
The planning is over and so is the ceremonial groundbreaking.
Now comes the work.
Next month, heavy equipment will be fired up and work will start on $130 million worth of new bridges and turnpike interchange improvements in Lawrence.
Local leaders, Kansas Turnpike Authority officials and engineers gathered Thursday afternoon on the Kansas River levy in North Lawrence for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the project's beginning.
"We are celebrating the value of this roadway to the economy of Kansas," said Mary Turkington, KTA Board chairwoman. "It really has contributed to that and will continue to do that."
It will be the most massive and most expensive project in turnpike's 52-year history, and it will take up to three and a half years to complete, the authority's president, Michael Johnston said.
The contractor for the project, Hamm Inc., of Perry, can begin work June 4.
But 12 days later - June 16 - the headaches begin for local motorists. That's when the westbound entrance to the Interstate 70 turnpike will be closed at the West Lawrence toll plaza. That means no traffic traveling west on the turnpike can exit. And no traffic can enter the turnpike to head west.
During the next eight months, westbound motorists will have to enter at the East Lawrence toll plaza or the Lecompton interchange at I-70 and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
The project includes two new bridges over the Kansas River.
Construction will start on a new westbound bridge, which will be built just north of the existing bridge.
Once the new span is completed - likely in late 2009 - all traffic will move to that bridge. It's large enough to accommodate both eastbound and westbound vehicles until another bridge is complete. At that time, the east Lawrence toll plaza will be closed to all traffic for eight months. A new, bigger plaza will be built.
The final phase of construction will come in 2011 with completion of the new eastbound bridge and resurfacing along the two-mile corridor between the two interchanges.
The new bridges are being built because the old ones will be at the end of their structural life by 2012, Johnston said.
"We're not doing this because we want to but because we have to," Johnston said. "We're making some other improvements in Lawrence that will be much better for our customers."
What's the latest?
A Web site has been set up to keep the public informed about the construction process. There is a link along the left side of the Web page where people can sign up to receive e-mail updates about the project.
"The KTA has done a great job of notifying the community about what is going to need to happen," Lawrence Mayor Mike Dever said.
Dever and Douglas County Commissioner Jere McElhaney said the turnpike improvements will benefit the area economy by making it easier for more vehicles to get on and off the turnpike.
The turnpike project is the biggest construction job Hamm has taken on, president Rod Hamm said. Previously, the firm's largest project was the $65 million Oakland Expressway in Topeka. Hamm also was contractor for the $55 million widening of the turnpike from Lecompton to Topeka.
"It will be exciting," Hamm said of the Lawrence project. "It's close to home, and we enjoy working with the turnpike."