Drivers already energized by falling fuel prices and favorable weather conditions now have something else to look forward to: free-flowing traffic at the Kansas Turnpike’s West Lawrence interchange.
New ramps along the north side of the turnpike — for traffic coming into Lawrence from the east, and for drivers leaving town to head west — are scheduled to open late Monday afternoon at the interchange, which is exit 202 north of the Hallmark Cards plant.
Such access has been shut down since June, as crews embarked on the beginning of a larger $130 million project that will replace bridges across the Kansas River and make other improvements.
Come Monday, the West Lawrence interchange — with a new roundabout in place, a new bridge across the turnpike and new ramps to ease traffic flow — will give drivers a chance to enjoy a restoration of convenience.
“Thanksgiving is a busy time for travelers, and we’re just glad they can get back to a normal routine,” said Rex Fleming, project engineer for the Kansas Turnpike Authority. “And I am very thankful to have this open. Now I can go on my vacation for Thanksgiving and eat that meal and enjoy it.”
The affected sections of the interchange are reopening three weeks ahead of schedule, he said, thanks to diligent work by the project’s contractors: Perry-based Hamm Cos. Inc., the project’s lead contractor, plus Graybeal Construction on concrete, Atlas Electric on lights and related wiring, Cohron for the bridge and the authority’s own crews on lane markings.
“They’ve been working hard,” Fleming said. “Yesterday we had four different contractors out here, working on top of each other to get things done.”