Turns out that closing a U.S. Highway bisecting North Lawrence for as many as nine times during a single day wasn’t such a bright idea, after all.
Thursday afternoon, the Kansas Turnpike Authority and its hired contractors agreed to reschedule planned bridge work that would have closed North Third Street as early as this morning along the north side of the turnpike.
The work instead has been postponed until Monday, and now will be spread out over as many as three overnight shifts beginning at 9 p.m. and running until 6 a.m.
Contractors still will need to shut the road down for nine separate intervals, each lasting 10 to 15 minutes, so that crews can lift steel bridge beams into place above North Third.
But instead of disrupting the daytime travel for perhaps thousands of motorists — the stretch of North Third, which is U.S. Highways 40 and 59, carries at least 16,000 vehicles per day — the overnight delays will be expected to affect a minimal number of drivers.
Crews will be required to set up lights and work overnight hours, but the end result should be less inconvenience for the driving public, said Rex Fleming, the turnpike’s project engineer on the job.
“It makes common sense to us that traffic’s a lot lighter during the night than during the day,” said Fleming, who’s coordinating the adjustments after consultations with representatives from the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and the Kansas Department of Transportation. “We decided on the traveler’s side and went with that.”
While the work should be completed by early Wednesday morning, Fleming said, there is a chance that inclement weather could push the project into overnight Wednesday.
Should that occur, he said, crews would not start their work Wednesday night until after all traffic had cleared following the Kansas University men’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse, which tips off at 7 p.m.
And no, Fleming — an engineering graduate of Kansas State University — isn’t the least bit tempted to tweak Jayhawk fans by delaying their trips out of town.
“My wife works at KU,” he said, laughing at the prospect.
Each of the new support beams is 66 feet long and weighs 6.6 tons. Original plans had called for installing the beams as early as today, with the intermittent closures of North Third to come between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
To help accommodate the actions of sure-to-be-frustrated drivers, crews from Hamm Cos. agreed to make repairs to East 1500 Road, a road likely to become an unofficial detour for traffic blocked on North Third.
East 1500, which runs beneath the turnpike by connecting U.S. Highway 40 to the north and North Street to the south, had been closed since this summer, because of damaged pavement caused by heavy construction equipment. Hamm’s temporary repairs enabled the road to reopen Thursday.
The new bridge above North Third will handle traffic heading west on the turnpike. It is one of several smaller bridges being built as part of a larger, $130 million project to overhaul two interchanges and replace turnpike bridges crossing the Kansas River.
Hamm is general contractor on the entire project.