The Kansas Turnpike’s West Lawrence interchange is fully operational once again, having opened its new ramps to traffic Monday afternoon.
The interchange, which is exit 202 on the turnpike, had been partially closed since June. That’s when crews went to work building a new bridge across the turnpike, a roundabout along the north side of the highway and two ramps for traffic heading into Lawrence from the east and leaving town toward Topeka.
Earlier Monday, Kansas Turnpike Authority crews took care of final details before opening the bridge, roundabout and new ramps to traffic: placing lane stripes, dismantling temporary “ROAD CLOSED” signs, and testing electrical connections for the tall overhead lights counted on for illuminating the way for drivers who had been forced for months into finding alternate ways into and out of Lawrence.
Then, at 3 p.m. — three weeks ahead of schedule — the work paid off.
“We’re proud of that,” said Rex Fleming, KTA project engineer. “We appreciate everybody’s patience during the past few months.
“I’m excited. I’m relieved.”
Contractors now can turn their attention to finishing construction of a new bridge across the Kansas River. Once that bridge is completed — expected sometime in 2010 — crews will divert all turnpike traffic onto that bridge and then demolish the existing bridges to make way for yet another new span.
The overall $130 million project also will include rebuilding the East Lawrence interchange, which is exit 204 in North Lawrence. Work on that portion of the process is expected to begin in late spring or early summer 2010.
The entire project remains on track for completion in 2011, Fleming said.